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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 1, 2000 – The National)---A proposal to abolish the Papua New Guinea Defense Force is being considered as part of a government review of PNG's military, according to a weekend Australian newspaper.

The Sunday Age of Melbourne said the proposal had sparked fears that Australia and New Zealand could be forced to take a greater military role in PNG.

Quoting intelligence, military and diplomatic sources, the newspaper said one option being considered by the PNG Government was "the effective abolition of the PNGDF and PNG Police Force, and the setting up of a single paramilitary force similar to those in several Pacific nations, including the Solomon Islands."

Other proposals included privatizing some military functions and dramatically scaling down PNGDF numbers.

The report quoted an unnamed Australian security analyst as saying the PNGDF was so run down it could not be relied on.

That had led to the concern that if it was further eroded Australia and New Zealand may have to step in and take over some functions, the source said.

Only last week, Defense Minister Muki Taranupi told Parliament that the Defense Force was facing a shortage of funds to maintain current activities, including provision of food in the messes and payment of utilities and duty allowances.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta set up a Ministerial Committee on Defense Affairs on March 1 this year that has already dealt with grievances of soldiers regarding outstanding pay and other entitlements.

The committee is currently inquiring into broader issues that would rectify the current sorry state of affairs in the PNGDF.

The NEC has asked the Ministerial Committee to, among other things, advise the Government as to whether or not a more detailed review is required of the Defense Act and a functional and expenditure review of the Department of Defense and the PNGDF as a matter of priority to satisfy the people of PNG and the international community regarding long-term national safety and security.

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

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