Friday, March 16, 2012

Foreign Minister: Australia must say sorry


THE government has demanded an apology from Australia after its fo­reign affairs minister warned that sanctions could be imposed if the general election is not held as scheduled in June, The National reports.
 Foreign Minister Ano Pala told a media conference in Port Moresby yesterday that he had summoned acting Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson to express the government’s disappointment over Bob Carr’s comments.
Pala said he had also telephoned Carr, who recently replaced Kevin Rudd in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s cabinet.
“I have spoken with Carr.
“He has explained the context from which he made the statement and I have accepted the explanation.”
However, Carr has to make a public apology and withdraw his comments.
When asked what explanation Carr gave, Pala said it was a “hypothetical case” and it was in the best interest of the two countries not to dwell too much on that issue and move on.
“I summoned Adamson this morning to express the PNG government’s disappointment over the reported public statement by Carr.
“I requested Australia to verify and ascertain the true nature of Carr’s public statement of a threat against PNG.
“If indeed it is true, I have strongly requested that the statement be retracted and withdrawn and that a public apology be made in the same manner.
“I reaffirmed PNG’s view of the friendly, constructive and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship that exists between PNG and Australia.
“Our neighbouring ties allow us to keep a close check on each other as sovereign countries within the spirit of friendship and cooperation,” Pala said.
“The PNG Constitution provides for the conduct of national elections and as a true constitutional democracy, we will observe the Constitution which has been vigorously tested over the last six months and has so far withstood those tests.”
Carr told Sky News on Wednesday night that it was absolutely vital that the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill “commit unequivocally to this election”.
Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah had said the polls should be pushed out by 12 months to allow the government more time to implement policies. It would also give time for the voter rolls to be completed.
Carr said any move to delay the poll would be a shocking model for the Pacific and would invite
a sharp response.
“You’ve got Australia placed in a position where we would have no alternative but to organise the world to condemn and isolate Papua New Guinea.
 “We’d be in a position of having to consider sanctions.”
Charles Lepani, PNG’s envoy to Australia, said in Canberra the tone of Carr’s comments – the first interaction Carr has had with PNG – caught him by surprise.
“’When you talk about sanctions, it is a serious international weapon,”’ he told Australian media.
Lepani said parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Richard Marles was in Port Moresby last week and had been assured the election would go ahead.
“’It has come as a surprise for us and the Papua New Guinea government that a good friend of ours would in his first discourse, first contact, issue a statement that can be misconstrued as unfriendly,” he said.
He said as Carr’s comments were made during an interview with former Labor hardman, Graham Richardson, they could be best viewed as “a knee-jerk reaction”.
“These things pop up. I understand and Bob Carr is Bob Carr,” Lepani said

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