Port Moresby ‘Outraged’ At Aussie Plan For Bougainville Mission

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Port Moresby ‘Outraged’ At Aussie Plan For Bougainville Mission PM demands explanation from Canberra; notes diplomatic sensitivities

By Gorethy Kenneth

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 15, 2015) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato are outraged at Australia’s proposal to set up a diplomatic mission on Bougainville.

Foreign Affairs acting Secretary Bill Dihm had been instructed to seek an explanation from Australia’s High Commissioner Deborah Stokes. Addressing a development forum at the Lowy Institute in Sydney this week, Mr O’Neill said the Government was shocked to learn that Canberra has planned to establish a diplomatic post on Bougainville. He said there had been no consultation on this proposal and there was no agreement to proceed.

As part of its 2015 budget announced on Tuesday, Australia will commit US$78.5 million (K216.8m) to open five overseas missions – in Buka, Qatar, Mongolia, Thailand and the Indonesian city of Makassar on Sulawesi.

"We were shocked to learn that the Australian government plans to establish a diplomatic post on Bougainville," he said.

"As we all know, Bougainville is an integral part of Papua New Guinea and there are clear historical sensitivities around Bougainville that must be appreciated, especially the sensitivities that are on Bougainville when there is an election going on."

"As we respect territorial integrity of others, we expect other to respect us as well," he said, adding that he would raise it next week at the annual gathering of Papua New Guinean and Australian business councils in Lae.

"I will be using that opportunity to make suggestions on how we can address some of our bilateral relationship issues, but more importantly on strengthen our business, investment and trade relationships," Mr O’Neill said.

"I will in turn present the findings to NEC, at the earliest opportunity, for their deliberation."

Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop denied that Canberra had failed to consult with PNG over the diplomatic post."

In a statement to the ABC, a spokesperson said Ms Bishop had discussed her proposal to open a secondary post in PNG during a visit in December 2014.

According to Ms Bishop’s office, high commissioner Stokes had had also formally advised the O’Neill Government of its intention to announce a new diplomatic presence.

Ms Bishop said she was going to speak to Minister Pato last night.

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