International Relations. Papua New Guinea press review
Minister for Immigration and Border Security of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Westly Nukundi Nukundj met with Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to PNG His Excellency Andriana Supandy. Discussions surrounded the areas of strengthening bilateral corporation between the two nations in the areas of visas and border protection along the PNG-Indonesian borders, border infrastructure development within the COVID-19 period and cooperation between the two nations after COVID-19. The meeting was a follow up on earlier discussions between the leaders of the two nations, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
«COVID -19 is present in Indonesia and the chances of it being spread into PNG by land is very high. We have our security forces manding our border but we have to work together though an understanding to ensure that the virus does not spread over PNG,» marked the Minister. In turn, Ambassador of Indonesia to PNG Mr. Supandy expressed his gratitude towards the PNG government for its corporation in ensuring that 24 Indonesians were safely repatriated back last month. He said those repatriated were working in the PNG LNG Project, Oil Search and other companies.
Then Mr. Ambassador said that he is looking forward to the same assistance through the office of the Controller when the second repatriation exercise is carried later this month. The second group of more than 100 persons working in different companies operating along the borders. Mr. Ambassador in the course of their discussions, also made mention that he has discussed with other state ministers in the areas of Commerce, Transport and State-Owned Enterprises on development assistance in these different areas. [1-2]
In addition, Mr. Supandy said that there is a proposal to reopen for trading Batas, the economic zone at the Wutung-Skouw border of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. According to Mr. Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to PNG, on the border area, last year every month, the business transaction at the border area is around 24 billion Indonesian Rupiah, it’s more or less like K7 million (US$1,98 million) every month. Moreover, Mr. Supandy noted that due to COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the border, the trading activities were prevented. «Rough predictions is that it’s now 80% lower than last year, » he said.
Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin remains unrelenting on his insistence for a bilateral defence treaty to be spearheaded, preferentially by the United States and not Australia, before work on the Lombrum naval base starts on Manus Island. Governor is also insisting on a formal treaty to replace the current Memorandum of Understanding signed between PNG and Australia for the project. «Manus Province, its people and government do not trust Australia […] She has let the people of Manus down, denying them roads, social as well as hospital upgrade infrastructures augmenting toward progress during the tenure of the Manus asylum seekers debacle on Manus, » Mr. Benjamin said. Governor has also urged the PNG Prime Minister Hon. James Marape to respond to his brief as well as appoint a high-level review team to further advice both governments on the way forward.