AUSTRALIA DENIES IT IS PRO-MORAUTA, ANTI-SOMARE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 19, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The Australian Government yesterday denied it was more receptive to the former Papua New Guinea government of Sir Mekere Morauta than the current government of Sir Michael Somare.

Australian High Commissioner Nick Warner said the Australian government gives the current government the same amount of financial assistance Australia gave to the Morauta/Ogio government last year.

His denial follows comments reportedly made by Somare that Australia was biased against his government by refusing to provide emergency funding.

Somare is also reported to have alleged Australia went out of its way to help Morauta in the leadup to this year's elections, which his government lost.

These comments could sour relations between Port Moresby and Canberra. 

Warner said his government last year was approached to redirect some of its aid money by the Morauta government. This it did to the tune of $A34 (then about K70 million), he said.

Warner said, during the Australia and PNG ministerial forum last week in Port Moresby, his government allowed the PNG Government to redirect K100 million in aid monies ($A34 million). This was the same amount allowed for the Morauta government, he said.

Warner provided the figures to dispel a report in the Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald. It quoted Somare as reportedly saying he was unhappy at his government not being given the same treatment by Australia.

He said it was refused permission to direct aid monies to fund areas in dire need of financial assistance.

Warner refused further comment on that and other issues reportedly raised by Somare.

Somare is reported to have said that money provided to the Morauta government by Canberra enabled Morauta to embark on this year’s pre-election spending spree. This was a move which Somare claimed came close to election interference.

Somare is reported to have said: "The Australian government went out to support Sir Mekere’s last budget before the elections and without the concurrence of the World Bank and IMF.

"I am saying to myself, what’s this, what is going on? Is it a favorable relationship? One must be better than the other, that’s the question I am asking."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that investigations by the paper revealed an agreement between Australia, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This was to withhold further assistance from the Somare government to force the adoption of strict cuts and reforms.

The newspaper reported that Somare said he heard rumors of the donors’ stance and had been told the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would only make further loans if Australia agreed.

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

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

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