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By John Dau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 6) - Papua New Guinea Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu expressed confidence yesterday the K2 billion (US$621 million) Enhanced Co-operation Package will strengthen the diverse relationship that Papua New Guinea enjoys with Australia.

It is likely that the arrival of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today is a positive sign for the package to be sealed between the two countries.

Sir Rabbie said there was wider community support for the ECP, designed to address and provide skills training to State employees and enhance the present logistical and related support.

He said K2 billion would be given to PNG over a five-year period while the Australian government budget provides the first K350 million (US$108.6 million) which will be spent in 2004 and 2005.

The Australian Government, with some reservations, has accepted this.

Addressing a business breakfast in Port Moresby yesterday, Sir Rabbie said:  "We worry that if we granted the immunity sought, then the relationship might be seriously harmed and we don't want to do that."

Sir Rabbie said the granting of immunity would require amendments to the Constitution because it provides that certain office holders are guaranteed independence from interference.

He said amendment to the Constitution would erode in any way the independence of the constitutional office holders.

Sir Rabbie said the constitutional officers' (Police Commissioner Public Prosecutor) status has to be strengthened and not weakened.

He said Parliament, in its current environment, would not approve such amendments given the majority that was required to do so.

He added the support would be put at risk if the country had one set of rules or standards for the police and one for the police working side by side.

He said the government has designed counter proposals that were balanced and reasonable.

Sir Rabbie said 230 police officers from Australia would be deployed to line positions within the Police, in Southern Highlands and Bougainville.

June 7, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:


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