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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 12) – Papua New Guinea government officials yesterday refused to discuss a possible major security lapse at Port Moresby's Jackson's International Airport, which enabled a man to slip through checkpoints with a pistol in his possession.

"It has serious implications on whether or not Air Niugini can be allowed to land in our neighboring countries like Australia, Singapore, Japan and Philippines," said an official yesterday.

The man with the pistol is a newly appointed managing director of a bank in Port Moresby. 

He had it in his possession when he boarded Air Niugini flight 392 at about 3.30 pm last Thursday and flew to Singapore's Changi International Airport where he was detained and interrogated by the local airport security. 

He was on the advance party that included a lot of businessmen travelling to China as part of the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's 80-member official delegation currently in Beijing.

The PNG citizen was detained at the airport for about six hours and put on the flight back to Port Moresby on PX Boeng 767's return flight under the command of senior pilot Captain Sam Siaguru. 

All security systems were alerted including the CIA and Interpol in Port Moresby when the man returned to Port Moresby. 

Civil Aviation director Andrew Ogil's telephone went unanswered yesterday while senior members of Air Niugini management were being grilled by the Public Accounts Committee yesterday over airline's financial management issues (See stories / Page 2). The airline's public relations officer Eva Arni was not in a position to comment.

The matter is expected to top the agenda of the National Security Advisory Council which meets in Wewak this weekend before the arrival of Sir Michael for the opening of the Wewak tuna loining plant on Saturday. 

NSAC chief Joe Asaigo could not be drawn into discussing the matter. 

CAA security personnel and the Airport Police Station also refused to comment.

It is understood that Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu's office had demanded a full report on security systems at the airport because of its serious ramifications on PNG's security measures and the possibility of terrorists using PNG as a staging point.

"What has happened shows that anybody could walk through with a pistol and board an overseas-bound flight," said concerned officers yesterday.

"Australia in particular and the CIA would be extremely concerned. The Australian High Commission in Port Moresby would be expressing serious concern. I believe the US Embassy and its CIA agents have already raised concerns," said one officer.

"The government needs to take immediate drastic measures to tighten security at the airport in Port Moresby," he said.

February 12, 2004

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