PNG PM MORAUTA PROMISES TO REBUILD DEFENSE FORCE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 31, 2001 – Post-Courier)---Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta yesterday promised a hefty K 35 million (US$ 10,062,500) to rebuild the Defense Force.

"I am pleased to announce the availability of K35 million to meet the costs of the first phase of the rebuilding. This is in addition to 2001 Budget funding," Sir Mekere told more than 4,000 soldiers and their families who witnessed a moving parade conducted by the air, sea and land elements of the PNG Defense Force to honor outgoing commander Brigadier General Carl Marlpo and welcome his replacement, Peter Ilau.

Sir Mekere boasted of being the first Prime Minister to have set a specific, detailed and comprehensive agenda on the Defense Force and said the K 35 million would be used to pay outstanding entitlements to redundant soldiers, training of soldiers, maintenance of facilities and equipment and improve the management of the force.

He said K 26 million (US$ 7,475,000) would cover redundancy and staff entitlements and K 8.2 million (US$ 2,357,500) on other activities while K1 million (US$ 287,500) would be used to purchase new uniforms and boots for the soldiers.

"Successful implementation of this first phase will allow me to consider phase two in January next year," he said.

Sir Mekere thanked the Australian Government for agreeing to support the PNG Government in the rebuilding program and added his government would also seek to renegotiate the long-standing Australia-PNG Defense Cooperation program to focus it on rebuilding the force.

The Australian government yesterday maintained its commitment to help the PNGDF in its rebuilding program, promising to inject AU$ 20 million (US$ 10,087,400) into it.

He identified some of the areas as arrears in the payment of entitlements -- some going back 10 years -- non repatriation of discharged soldiers and their families, accommodation, bills for fuel, water and electricity, maintenance of equipment and facilities and breakdown in management and systems and processes.

Sir Mekere said the allocation of K 35 million (US$ 10,062,500) would solve most of the problems highlighted and even gave the Force a pay raise.

He said servicemen yet to be repatriated would be sent home with full entitlements, allowing other soldiers to move into the homes vacated by the discharged soldiers.

 

POLITICS-FREE PNG DEFENSE FORCE EXPECTED

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 31, 2001 – Post-Courier)---Soldiers must reject "outsiders including politicians" who want to manipulate them.

This was the blunt message Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta had for soldiers of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force.

Addressing them at a handover parade for their new commander, Peter Ilau, he urged soldiers to reject outright politicians who wanted to manipulate the Defense Force to engage in political activities, especially during the coming general elections.

Speaking to about 4,000 soldiers and their families at Murray Barracks, Sir Mekere said the perception of mistrust and unreliability could be lessened by the re-dedication of the force.

"It means that those officers and soldiers who want to participate in politics or the general elections must immediately resign,’’ Sir Mekere said.

"Parliament and politicians engage in politics. Defence personnel join the force to defend their country against threats to national security and to loyally serve the government of the day."

Sir Mekere said the region had seen increased instability involving actions by the military in politics and the overthrow of constitutions and governments where nations have suffered dreadfully as a result.

"Papua New Guinea must not be part of this dangerous cycle," he said.

Sir Mekere said the country had experienced, in the last four years, the reality of a few elements within the force questioning the authority of the Government and the National Parliament, which were the basic institutions of Government and the constitutional democracy.

He was referring to instances where soldiers have protested, often threatening the peace, and going openly against their command chain and the government.

"This has now created in our own country, and overseas, a view that the Defense Force in its entirety cannot be relied upon by future governments to support PNG’s Constitution and democracy," Sir Mekere said.

"This perception means that, as a member of the international community, PNG cannot be relied on to fulfill its international duties and obligations.

"It means that people wanting to visit or work in our country feel unsafe.

"To those who want to provide our nation and people with much-needed aid, we are seen as unstable. To those who want to invest in our country, we are too risky," the Prime Minister said.

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

Provided by Vikki John VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au" target="_blank">(VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

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