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PNG officials question need for large entourage

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 31, 2008) – Concerns have been raised about a big ministerial delegation on an official trip to Sarawak, Malaysia, this week led by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

Government officials and non-government organisations questioned what a high-powered, 25-member party was doing there when it was only to seal a Wewak-Sarawak sister-city relationship.

The delegation, apart from Sir Michael, includes Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch, Bougainville Regional MP Fidelis Semoso, Sandaun Administrator Joseph Sungi and Central Provincial Administrator Raphael Yibma-ramba to name a few.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, during the dinner hosted to welcome the PNG delegation, Sir Michael urged investors from Sarawak, which already has a presence in Papua New Guinea’s timber industry, to explore investment potentials in PNG, which enjoyed a warm and cordial relationship with Malaysia since diplomatic ties were forged in 1976.

Sarawak state Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud told the PNG delegation that Sarawak was willing to share its expertise on development initiatives, especially on commercial land development concepts, with PNG.

The state government offered to send officers to PNG to share such inputs as part of efforts to enhance bilateral relations between both Commonwealth members, which shared many common features, including an ancient land code.

"After independence, the land tenure concept was transformed by converting old native customary rights land into commercial estates through the setting up of land banks so as to inject it with economic value and if it works in Papua New Guinea, it will be one of the best transformation in the Pacific islands," he said at the state dinner on Tuesday night.

Similarly, he said, officers from PNG were invited to come to Sarawak on exchange programs because the government believed in the "prosper thy neighbour" policy to survive in a fast changing world.

He said Sarawak would be intensifying bilateral trade ties by buying the country’s vast sago resources through the imports of sago flour when a memorandum of understanding is signed between the Sarawak Land Consolidated Development Authority and Independent Public Business Corporation of PNG on Wednes-day.

Meanwhile, Sir Michael said, at present, there were about 200 Malaysian companies in PNG with investments worth US$800 million in agriculture, mainly oil palm, forestry, retail, property development and print media (The National).

"The current indication showed that Malaysian investment would reach the US$1 billion mark in five years time," he said.

Sir Michael, who was confident that his visit would forge new collaborations, said Malaysia was his country’s fourth largest foreign direct investor and the largest from Asia at the moment.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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