WEST PAPUA LINKED TO HUMAN SMUGGLING

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 16, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---A Papua New Guinean whose parents come from Indonesian-ruled West Papua has told intelligence interrogators how he traveled with a Sri Lankan, reputedly leader of a human smuggling ring.

The trip by boat in 1998 was from Amadi in West Papua's provincial capital of Jayapura into West Sepik province on Papua New Guinea's north coast.

According to details of the interview being studied by Papua New Guinea's National Security Advisory Committee, this ringleader was accompanying four Sri Lankans and an African.

They all traveled to Daru, Western province, in the hope of getting across to Australia through the Torres Strait islands but were arrested and deported.

Tamil Tiger rebels from Sri Lanka may be among those using Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands as routes to Australia, the National Security Advisory Council has been told.

The former West Papuan, who is named in the National Security Advisory Committee report, is a regular and legal traveler to Indonesia.

He told his interrogators that the Sri Lankan had bought forged Papua New Guinea passports for US$ 2,500 each in the Thailand capital of Bangkok.

The National Security Advisory Committee brief also named a Foreign Affairs contact.

The brief said that the ringleader and his contact met on at least three occasions in a Port Moresby hotel and at one of these meetings it was agreed that the Foreign Affairs officers would get Sri Lankans into Australia for a fee of K 1,500 (US$ 454.50) per person.

The Tamil Tiger threat was highlighted after four suspected rebels were caught recently trying to travel to Australia through Papua New Guinea on forged Canadian and Malaysian travel documents.

The concern about the rebels illegally entering PNG via routes such as Vanimo, bordering Indonesian-ruled West Papua, was made in several briefs widely circulated among National Security Advisory Council members.

The briefs said apart from illegal entry the Sri Lankan human smuggling organizers also seem to have easy access to forged Papua New Guinea passports and visas and were being helped by PNG officials and residents.

One brief said there had been suggestions that PNG be used as a transit point for the rebels or ex-rebels on their way to Australia, where there was a real possibility of causing harm to individuals, businesses "or even their High Commission in Australia."

An alleged ringleader of the Sri Lankan human smuggling ring also tried unsuccessfully to take a group of Sri Lankans to the Solomon Islands last year.

According to the authorities, he and five of his countrymen traveled from Port Moresby to Honiara. Authorities in Honiara refused entry and the six returned to Papua New Guinea where he abandoned them and boarded a Singapore flight on the same day.

According to the brief, Tamil Tigers connections with Sri Lankans in PNG go back at least a decade. It noted that in 1996, an LTTE (Tamil Tiger) supporter in Australia was in touch with a Sri Lankan resident in PNG, attempting to raise funds for weapons.

In 1989 a London-based Sri Lankan visited Papua New Guinea three times, apparently trying to collect funds for Tamil Tigers from the Sri Lankan community in PNG.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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