PNG AIRPORT VIP LOUNGE SNEAKS IN FOREIGNERS

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Some 30 foreigners entered country without visas last week

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 4. 2008) – The Jackson’s International Airport’s VIP lounge is being used by protocol officials to "sneak" in foreigners and non-VIPs.

Industry sources claimed in the last three weeks more than 30 foreigners came in without visas.

More than 20 got their visas at the airport two weeks ago and 12 arrived with a Muslim who was trying to travel to Madang also without proper documents on Tuesday.

A man from Turkey arrived on Tuesday as a tourist with a substantial amount of cash in US dollars and was picked up by a prominent government head but deported yesterday.

These happenings have raised fears both for security and breaches of protocol by officers who are supposed to protect it.

These foreigners according to government intelligence, are coming in claiming to be engineers for the a major resource project but cannot speak English.

The senior officers from one of the stakeholders in the aviation industry said a former minister was allowed to go through the VIP lounge and nearly escaped without paying K9,000 in import duty tax.

The officer said: "It is alarming when foreigners who are not by any standard VIP but executive of some businesses in the country are given the VIP treatment."

He said the protocol officers would get their cargo and passports stamped without going through the normal process.

He said the VIP lounge is normally for the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and other visiting dignitaries.

This has been confirmed by the customs manageress (passenger processing unit Jackson’s) Alber-tina Hasing in a letter addressed to Philip Pakop, facilitation manager, Civil Aviation Authority in a letter dated March 19.

The letter titled "Misuse of States lounge (VIP) reads: "On several occasions I witnessed, as the person in charge at the airport does not receive any formal letters indicating who is to use the VIP lounge.

"It is not only my concern but also the other stakeholders based here at the airport should receive in writing by the protocol officers of who is to use the State’s lounge before the arrival of the aircraft."

Ms Hasing said that the lounge is only for ministers and not for public use.

She wrote that former politicians are being entertained by "protocol officer upstairs" though they were aware of the procedures.

"I believe that it is unfair on both Customs and Quarantine as most luggage’s owned by the former parliamentarians and their families or even the foreign group of companies who are entertained upstairs make false declarations on their cards which is not so pleasing to the eyes of the Customs and Quarantine officials," she said.

She said that she wrote to Mr Pakop as the owner of the facility to look into this matter.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sam Abal told Parliament yesterday that the private sector was helping corruption in the Foreign Affairs Department.

When answering a series of questions from Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, Mr Abal said it "takes two to tango" and the private sector is offering bribes to corrupt the Foreign Affairs officers.

Mr Wenge asked why the processing of passports was taking too long among other questions.

Attempts to get comments from Foreign Affairs Secretary Gabriel Pepson were unsuccessful as he is away in Australia.

Attempts to get comment from acting secretary Mr Kila Karo were unsuccessful as the the telephone went unanswered.

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