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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 14) – Sophisticated transnational crimes such as human trafficking, drugs and small arms smuggling are seriously threatening Papua New Guinea's sovereignty, an academic told a Law and Justice sector conference in Port Moresby.

National Research Institute acting head of politics and legal division, Lt Colonel James Laki said that State institutions have become too weak to effectively combat drug smuggling, human trafficking and money laundering activities.

Addressing a workshop organized by the Law and Justice Sector Program and the Department of National Planning and Rural Development, Laki said some foreigners involved in shady businesses are influencing the bureaucracy to legitimize their activities, work permits and visas.

He said the passport scam in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the relative ease with which work permits were be obtained from the Department of Labor were proof that the bureaucracy had been infiltrated.

In a report to parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu claimed procedures were being flouted in issuing passports and other travel documents. The report revealed that in 2001, there were 20 cases of irregular issuance of entry permits to facilitate foreigners to enter or to extend their residence in PNG.

"These foreigners could be involved in terrorism and are using PNG as a staging post before moving to Australia, Canada or the U.S. They could also be involved in international crime syndicates," Laki said.

Regarding drug trafficking, he said people in key departments could be accomplices as they see enormous pecuniary gains.

He said that drugs that have been seized included stimulants, heroin, cocaine, opium and drugs in tablet form.

Lt Col Laki pointed out that PNG recorded only a few cases of seizure because there was no effective mechanism to monitor the occurrence of drug smuggling.

He said conflicts in the Pacific Island countries of Fiji, Solomon Islands and PNG were attributed to the acquisition of small arms from Australia and other countries, many of which have been traded for drugs such as cannabis.

November 15, 2004

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