Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Attacks on Australians in Papua New Guinea continue

By ILYA GRIDNEFF, AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent
PORT MORESBY, Feb 15 AAP - Papua New Guinea police are investigating allegations a brutal attack on an Australian aid worker is linked to his work exposing corruption.
A spate of car-jackings in the capital, Port Moresby, has given rise to a climate of fear among some Australian officials, so much so Australia's High Commissioner to PNG, Ian Kemish, last week met with police chiefs to discuss their concerns.
One of these incidents included a male aid adviser working in PNG's National AIDS Council Secretariat (NACS) who suffered "serious injuries" in an attack last month during a car-jacking that required him to be flown to Brisbane for treatment.
AAP understands another Australian adviser with NACS ended her contract shortly after her colleague's car-jacking. She had suffered repeated violent threats.
NACS boss Wep Kanawi, who is overseeing controversial reforms and restructures within the organisation riddled with corruption, suffered serious wounds when car-jacked outside his Port Moresby home on Sunday night.
 Port Moresby Metropolitan Police Commander Joseph Tondop told AAP he is aware of the Australian officials' concern.
"Police are looking into the car-jackings and if there is something to do with corruption then we will pursue this," he said.
 Australia's opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop told AAP the incidents were "extremely damaging" for Australia's efforts in PNG.
"If the allegations are correct it raises very serious concern about the safety of our aid workers and the issue of corruption within the aid system.
 "The Australian government must call on the PNG government to assure our aid workers can operate in a safe environment and are safe to report any issue they have with the aid program," she said.
 A spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd said in a written statement: "there is currently no evidence to confirm such allegations."
"Australia is strongly committed to supporting PNG to address corruption," she said. 
 Australia's $457 million annual aid program to PNG focuses on tackling widespread corruption, but the realpolitik means little can be done when advisers actually discover wrongdoing.
A lack of political will on the PNG side, underfunding for police, the jails and court system means most crimes go unsolved in the country.
Now, there are new concerns scant police numbers are being sent from the capital to remote parts of PNG for a massive ExxonMobil-led resource project.
Despite Australian Federal Police assistance in Madang, on PNG's northeast coast, police are still yet to arrest anyone in relation to the rape of a young Australian volunteer whose group was car-jacked, tied to tree and robbed in November last year.
No one has been charged for the shooting of Queensland businessman John Ramshaw, 61, who was killed during a robbery in June last year.
 PNG police have not arrested anyone for the brutal murder of Victorian transport adviser David Nicholson, 53, who was found dead after two young men accompanied him back to his Port Moresby flat in September 2008.

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