Controversial PNG Citizenship Decision Revoked By PM O’Neill

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PM calls for ‘due diligence’ in reviewing citizenship process

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 21, 2012) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has directed Foreign Affairs and Immigration to retract the decision to grant citizenship to Joko Soegiarto Tjandra until a review is conducted on how citizenship is handed out.

O’Neill, who returned from his campaign trip to Northern and Milne Bay provinces, said last night that individuals and investors were most welcome to do business in Papua New Guinea and become citizens. But, there must be proper due diligence checks on everybody.

He said if there were issues to be resolved with the government of Indonesia, then, that must be resolved first.

"I have directed that there be a review on the decision by the Citizenship Advisory Committee to ensure diligent processes have been followed in granting citizenship to applicants.

"I will not tolerate practices in granting citizenships to people without proper screening and without due diligence on screening of people applying for citizenship," O’Neill said.

Also yesterday, it was understood the Indonesian embassy in Port Moresby was considering a strongly-worded diplomatic protest note for delivery to PNG Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Department.

The prime minister’s decision last night was in direct conflict to Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Ano Pala who defended the granting of citizenship to Tjandra.

Pala said Tjandra had met all the mandatory requirements for citizenship as stipulated in the Constitution.

He said the Indonesian had lived in Papua New Guinea for 10 years but travelled in and out of the country because of his business interests elsewhere.

"The Citizenship Advisory Committee considered his application for citizenship naturalization just like any other applicant and made a recommendation to the minister for foreign affairs and immigration," Pala said in a statement.

He said he was satisfied that Tjandra was qualified to become a citizen.

"Information received by the minister and the Citizenship Advisory Committee clearly indicated that Tjandra had been cleared of the allegations, and even highlighting the fact that the matter was not criminal but rather political," he said.

"Contrary to media reports, Tjandra was not a fugitive as he had been living in Singapore for many years.

"If the government of Singapore, which is a member of Interpol and highly regarded as being free of corruption, can allow him residency there, why didn’t the government of Indonesia, Interpol or international media go after him in Singapore?

"He was obviously a free man because he travelled across the globe visiting his business interests and was not arrested."

Pala said Tjandra was a successful businessman and PNG stood to benefit from investments he proposed to make here, in particular, the rice project in the Mekeo area and corn in areas around the country.

He said Tjandra would be bringing in money from his successful business ventures abroad to create job opportunities for hundreds of citizens.

It would allow the country to become self-sufficient in rice production.

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