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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 23, 1998 - Post Courier)--- The government yesterday formally apologized to the Japanese government for "mishandling of any assistance" given in goodwill.

Foreign Affairs Minister Roy Yaki made the apology in reference to the portion of 8,000 tons of rice donated by the Japanese government to PNG during the height of the drought, which was not distributed and became infested by weevils.

Mr. Yaki made the apology to Japanese Ambassador Yasuhide Hayashi at the signing of the Exchange of Notes for procurement of sports equipment. He noted that "unfortunately there has been some mishap."

This situation would be rectified and the PNG government ensured that all future help from the government of Japan would be fully utilized upon receipt. He said the mishap should not spoil the good relationships between PNG and Japan.

Mr. Hayashi said the problem started from a misleading report. He said the Japanese people are concerned about their own economic problems and taxpayers are very watchful that help provided to other countries like PNG is utilized fully.

He said Japan is facing problems and its audit is very strict. He said the Japanese government, however, was grateful for the quick action by Mr. Yaki and Provincial Affairs Minister Simon Kaumi to sort out the problem.

The Japanese government will continue to maintain good relationships with the PNG government, he said, because "we consider PNG as a very important country."

About 300 tons of rice destined for distribution in the Central Province is still sitting at the wharf.

A week ago Governor Ted Diro said that plans are under way to distribute the rice.

He has since directed the suspension of the Provincial Disaster Committee for failing to distribute the 300 tons of rice to the drought affected people and ordered the appointment of a new committee to administer the distribution.

Mr. Diro's investigation committee had discovered that the rice, although infested by weevils, was still in good quality and edible.

"It's important that the rice at the wharf must be distributed to the people who now are suffering from the effects of the disaster," said Mr. Diro.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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