PNG MINISTER TURNS AWAY ‘FAST TRACK’ TRIP OFFERS

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 4, 2008) - A Papua New Guinea government minister has revealed that three foreign firms offered him free trips abroad in a bid to coerce him to fast-track paperwork relating to their investments.

"It’s just typical of a lot of investors wanting to get shortcuts but I just believe in one thing and that is to do things right. I have been approached by three different firms and they’ve offered me trips outside PNG. (They) offered me something which I told them ‘sorry I will not accept what you are offering, I simply told them I am here for the people and I will do everything for the people,’" revealed Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allan at a press conference on Friday.

His revelation coincided with the swearing-in of new members for the PNG Environment Council, a powerful group that will also advise the Minister on environmental matters.

Warning Department of Environment and Conservation staff and council members to go by the book and to be wary of crooked deals, Mr. Allan said his brief experience as a minister showed they had to be alert.

"I am just appealing to the department staff and council; we do try and run the department in a transparent manner," he said.

When asked what the companies were and which sectors they represented, he said: "Every investor who comes into Papua New Guinea, they will do business on the environment -- whether it is sea or on the land (so) all of them have to come to our office so it’s one of those investors."

Allan added Papua New Guineans needed to stand up against corrupt practices to change its direction.

"If we have to set PNG in the right direction then we have to start now, just for (the sake) of our future generation," he said.

The new council comprises DEC secretary Dr. Wari Iamo (chairman), Dr. Lawrence Kalinoe, Jeremiah Tamate, Dr. Gideon Osia and Beno Erepan.

Speaking before they were sworn-in, Dr. Iamo said the council in its line of duty would have to balance environmental sustainability with PNG’s economic development aspirations, while acknowledging the country was the world’s seventh biologically diverse nation.

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