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Solomons leader gets greeting, of sorts, in PNG

By John Pangkatana PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 6, 2011) - Honiara is just a small hop away from Port Moresby but sometimes a hop can become a major blooper.

That transpired when the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Danny Philip hopped over into Papua New Guinea (PNG) yesterday when it took half an hour for him to get off the plane in what was a royal embarrassment to Papua New Guinea’s Protocol Office.

In a major blunder, the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) Guards and Police Band there to provide the official parade and 21-gun salute to a visiting dignitary went to sleep and Mr. Philip had to enjoy the sultry Moresby heat from his Air Niugini plane window for 30 minutes while awaiting protocol issues to be smoothed over.

In true Melanesian spirit, Prime Minister Philip accepted the delay while orders were barked for the men in green and blue to move into position.

The red-carpet was set, Papua New Guinea dignitaries including National Capital District (NCD) Governor Powes Parkop and Foreign Affairs Minister Ano Pala among others were lined up...but the welcome parade was not in place.

When the special Air Niugini flight taxied to the VIP carpark area where a PNGDF guard of honour was to provide a welcome parade, the Solomon Islands PM was slightly amused at his neighbour’s unpreparedness.

You can imagine the look on the PNG dignitaries as they looked uncomfortable standing in a line outside the plane, as they looked on in earnest for the PNGDF soldiers and police band to take their place quickly. Earlier, the soldiers were waiting at the top public carpark to make a grand entrance through a short march down to the VIP carpark area. Their officers at the parade were also in the dark and were not consulted on when the plane was arriving.

The lack of communication or protocol blunder between the Foreign Affairs officers, the National Events Council and the PNGDF welcome parade, left a lot to be desired amongst those who witnessed the sour welcome at Jacksons International Airport.

Mr. Philip is in PNG for two days. He paid a courtesy call on the Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio and was officially welcomed by PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at a dinner at the State Function Room yesterday.

This morning, Mr. Philip meets with Mr. O’Neill in a one-on-one meeting, followed by bilateral meetings with the PNG Government team led by Mr. Pala and treasurer Don Polye. A joint communiqué will be signed between two prime ministers to end the official program.

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