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Australian cops recalled from PNG after snafu in 2003

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 6, 2008) – Internal Security Minister Sani Rambi says he wants Australian police redeployed in Papua New Guinea to tackle law and order issues, but on PNG’s terms.

Mr Rambi said he supported a new influx of Australian police under a revamped Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) police initiative between the two countries.

PNG’s police chief also said an Australia-PNG policing scheme needed to be on the agenda.

The topic is expected to be discussed during Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s PNG tour, which starts today.

Rudd’s fence-mending talks with counterpart Sir Michael Somare and other dignitaries will cover climate change initiatives, the Kokoda Track and the viability of a seasonal migrant workers scheme in Australia.

But law and order control through a joint PNG-Australia police scheme needed to be discussed, Mr Rambi said.

"We very much support an ECP scheme, but by our terms," he said. "Australian police assistance must go through our command."

Australian police officers began deploying in PNG under the ECP in late 2003 but around 150 officers were withdrawn in May 2005 after the Supreme Court ruled their legal immunities conflicted with PNG’s Constitution.

The failed plan to boost the run-down police force and tackle police corruption was one of several issues to cause problems between the two countries during former Australian prime minister John Howard’s time in power.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki said he could not comment on a proposal to bring back Australian police as it was a matter between the two governments.

"There are some discussions about this and we are quite mindful of the change in the new Australian government’s thinking.

"It’s on the plate but it is something we will need to look at and evaluate," he said.

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