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International peacekeeping new option

By Jonathan Tannos PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 19, 2010) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), defence Force soldiers can now participate in international combat or civil operations.

This follows yesterday’s passage by Parliament of amendments to the Defence Force Act, which was supported by an absolute majority of 69 votes with none against.

The amendments to Section 205(1)(b) and 206(1)(B) were considered overdue by many members of parliament, saying PNG had an obligation to assist with mainly humanitarian and civil obligations being a member of the international community. They passed the amendments without debate following presentation by Defence Minister, Bob Dadae.

Mr. Dadae said historical engagements by the Defence Force included thwarting of the Vanuatu Jimmy Stevens rebellion on Espiritu Sato (1980), regional assistance mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) (2003-10), the Gizo tsunami relief operations in Solomon Islands (2007) and medical operations in the Philippines (2009). "All these engagements were based on mutual cooperation with host countries," he said.

"This bill, however, tries to ensure that we have the legal authority and protection to go beyond our regional boundaries to assist other friendly nations around the globe simply because the PNG Defence Force has proven that it can do it successfully if given the chance." The bill also establishes an International Relations Committee which will be responsible for advising the National Executive Council (NEC) on options for the Government to take when getting international requests or of its own initiative.Included also is an international obligations fund, application of the Public Finance Management Act plus tax and duty exemptions on income and items procured during deployment.

Other inclusions relate to international agreement obligations, approval of international agreements, waiver provisions of Parliament, immunity of members of the force on international duties, preservation of secrecy and penalties of which fines do not exceed 5,000 kina [US$1,800]. Mr. Dadae said the bill was historically important because it allowed members of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) to participate in international obligations like any other military force in the world.

The International Obligations Committee will comprise heads of the Prime Minister’s, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Treasury, Planning, Trade and Industry, Personnel Management, Attorney General, Health, Civil Aviation and Transport Departments.

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