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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 5) – The National Government has committed K2 million (US$636,000) to kick-start a nation-wide fundraising drive to assist Asian tsunami victims.

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Mining Sam Akoitai announced PNG’s assistance yesterday after an emergency National Executive Council meeting.

He has directed Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu to discuss with foreign missions from the affected countries the possibility of sending PNG professionals such as doctors and nurses to join the international relief effort.

He said the K2 million would be used to open a bank account where funds from the nationwide appeal would be held.

Up to 150,000 people have died in 11 countries of South East Asia from tsunamis triggered by an earthquake measuring 9.0 in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra, Indonesia on Boxing Day.

Mr Akoitai has also directed Sir Rabbie to submit a policy submission on the membership and terms of reference of the national fundraising committee. The committee will have a secretariat, which will be operational for one year.

He said the committee would raise as much money as possible and the Government’s contribution would be reviewed as fundraising progressed.

PNG has been described as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hailstorms, floods, landslides, droughts and tsunamis. In 2000 a tsunami took the lives of 3000 people at Aitape, Sandaun Province.

"PNG has been a recipient of international relief assistance when we experienced several natural disasters and I therefore urge every Papua New Guinean to give generously," Mr Akoitai said.

"Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has also agreed that we should reciprocate the goodwill and humanitarian assistance provided by the international community when PNG faced natural disasters in the past.

"While many of us gladly welcomed the New Year, it continued to be a bleak period for the many victims and their families for whom life will never be the same."

Mr Akoitai said this would be one way of letting the affected countries and their people know that as a nation, PNG was saddened and horrified and would assist wherever it could.

"No amount of assistance will replace the many thousands of innocent lives lost but we can certainly assist in the relief and rebuilding process," Mr Akoitai said.

Sir Rabbie said he had directed Foreign Affairs Secretary Gabriel Pepson to consult with resident diplomatic representatives for the countries affected to determine what assistance PNG might give. He would also discuss with Mr Akoitai and his Cabinet colleagues the type of short and long term assistance the Government could offer.

January 6, 2005

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