Ban On Aussie Travel To Bougainville Stands: PNG Minister

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Pato tells Parliament Foreign Affairs still looking for solution

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 29, 2015) – Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato is adamant that the travel ban imposed on Australians to Bougainville is still in place until a solution is reached between both countries.

Mr Pato told Parliament during Question Time that he and the Prime Minister had discussed some of these issues on Bougainville, particularly the announcement by Australia that it would open a foreign mission in Buka. He said the question raised by Opposition Leader Don Polye on the lifting of the ban would depend on the ongoing discussions.

"I don’t want to do what the Australians did, make an announcement and later talk about what the solution or find out whether there is clarity of the discussion or not," Mr Pato said.

"I will discuss the matter and find the solution which will be best for our nation, the people of Australia and, more importantly, the people of Bougainville."

"So that the funding that the Australian government may provide to address some of the issues on Bougainville, the ongoing funding from the National Government are addressed in a manner that is consistent with the understanding that Australia and PNG is reach, so therefore while those discussions are on-going the lifting of the ban has not yet taken place."

"I think we will find a solution to it, because of the bilateral relations we will find a solution that will suit their interest, and our interest and will not in any way affect the issue of sovereignty, territorial jurisdiction of our country and our country’s affairs," the Foreign Affairs Minister said.

He warned that any issues to do with Bougainville must be in a responsible manner because the sensitivity of the issues and the history that surrounds the situation on that autonomous region.

"Over the years the National Government, particularly this government, has provided substantial funding to many of the programs for the development of infrastructure, health and education on Bougainville.

"In terms of whether the peace agreement is or is not working, there are arguments on both sides, therefore I do not want to get into detail.

"I want to look at this thing with some care and sensitivity so I can give a detailed answer not to only satisfy the public at large but also our people on Bougainville," Mr Pato said.

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