PNG Post-Courier PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Sept. 30, 2010) - Last Friday, Papua New Guineans woke up to read in this newspaper that another scandal has been uncovered in the Papua New Guinea Immigration and Citizenship Service.

This time we were told that some senior officers of that Immigration and Citizenship Service produced departure letters for illegal immigrants to leave the country to avoid arrests and prosecution in the court of law. The scandal is now the subject of an investigation because the Acting Prime Minister Don Polye has ordered it.

In response, Acting Chief Migration Officer Joseph Nobetau put out a public notice and explained the duties and responsibilities of his department in respect to the treatment of illegal non-citizens or overstayers.

Nobetau argued that the one of the functions his department has is to remove aliens and it uses departure letters to avoid cost to the nation for the detention and prosecution of individuals who have overstayed or are here illegally.

We accept the explanation given by Nobetau. There is nothing wrong with the policy. What may be wrong, and that is what we suspect. Some people may have abuse this policy.

The allegation over the departure letters, however, is not the only one level at this government agency. Over the years, there have been so many allegations level at this institution. These range from bribery, corruption, nepotism, involvement of staff members with Asian crime figures and so forth. In the words of one senior officer, it’s an open book in the department, meaning all staff are aware of these allegations.

In many of these cases, the reports were made to the Minister responsible and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Also these allegations are around when at this time; Papua New Guineans are told that human trafficking is a serious problem affecting PNG but this country has not done enough to eradicate the problem. This is coming from the US State Department and when Ms Hilary Clinton comes here in November, this may be one of the issues that she may take up with government officials.

It is pleasing to note, however, that the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service is to be separated from the Foreign Affairs Department. It will attain department status, and this is seen as the government’s answer to addressing many of those issues raised.

We applaud the Government for taking this bold measure. At last something is being done to restore the integrity of this very important institution of the government. People and businesses must have confidence in this government agency for the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service performs a very important role in the border security of our nation.

Now, going back to the alleged scandal with the departure letters, it is also pleasing to see that the Acting Prime Minister Don Polye has ordered an investigation into the allegation. We applaud Mr. Polye for taking making this decisive decision. It is expected that the terms of reference for the investigation is being developed and soon, a high level body will be established to investigate this allegation.

Without trying to tell anyone what they should do, we believe any investigation into the Immigration and Citizenship Service should cover all the issues that have been raised so as to clear the name of this government body once and for all.

The investigation must not leave any stone unturned, as the saying goes. With the LNG and major resource projects coming on stream, more people are going to move in and out of this country. It is very important that we have a Government body that can be trusted.

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