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By Colin Taimbari

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 6) - Attorney
General Francis Damem said the presence of the Royal Papua New Guinea Police
Force's helicopter 'Eye in the Sky' in the Solomon Islands was proper and in

Refuting suggestions raised by The National that the helicopter
and its crew could be illegally operating in the Solomon Islands, Damem stressed
that clearance was obtained from that Solomons Island government, especially its
Foreign Affairs and Civil Aviation Departments, for use of its territory and

"I wouldn't consider this as a violation of the PNG
Constitution. We have sought permission from relevant authorities in Solomon
Islands and by virtue of that authority we are there. I don't think it's an
issue for further debate," he said.

Damem said the engagement of the helicopter was specifically to
provide security for Prime Minister Michael Somare because of the volatile
situation in the Solomon Islands.

He said the presence of the helicopter should not be confused
with the participation of PNG Defense Force troops as part of the regional
intervention force. He said the use of the police helicopter was meant for
providing security for Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders, especially Sir
Michael and his delegation.

He said that the enabling legislation for police personnel to be
deployed in the Solomons would be presented to Parliament in September. 

The helicopter left Port Moresby on Friday morning with an
engineer and three fully armed mobile squad members. 

Meanwhile, Somare will meet his Solomon Islands counterpart,
Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza, before departing for Gizo today morning for the
MSG summit. Somare took time yesterday to visit the Kumul Force based at Red
Beach in Honiara and acknowledged the support by the Australians.

The Kumul Force has teamed up with the Royal Australian
Regiment's Second Battalion in readiness for action. The second batch of Kumul
Force will arrive in Honiara on Friday from Townsville.

Somare encouraged the troops from Australia, New Zealand and PNG
to carry out their duty with distinction. 

Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe, Police Commissioner Sam Inguba,
legal advisor Sumasi Singin and security advisor and former PNGDF Commander Ted
Diro are also accompanying the Prime Minister. 

Somare departs from the Solomon Islands for New Zealand on
Friday and the helicopter is expected to leave for PNG the same date.

August 6, 2003

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