PNG Opposition Demands Explanation on US-PNG Security deal as President Biden Cancels historic Visit to PNG
Papua New Guineans, wanting to catch a glimpse of US President, will be disappointed following foreign media reports that President Joe Biden has cancelled his stop-over trip to Papua New Guinea.
When reacting to the news, Opposition Leader Joseph Lelang, says as a country, we do understand, that there are domestic issues back in the United States that needed his attention.
The Opposition Leader, however, said the cancellation of the trip would give the opportunity for the Prime Minister to tell this country what this Defense Cooperation Treaty is all about.
Mr. Lelang said, information on the contents of the Defense Cooperation Treaty with the United States was sketchy, therefore, created a lot of confusion and uneasiness around the country as to what this means for us.
The Opposition is calling on the Prime Minister to come out and tell the nation the details of the Defense Cooperation Treaty.
The Opposition Leader reminded the Government that we have a foreign policy of "Friends to All and Enemies to None” and PNG need to stand firm on this foreign policy position.
Mr. Lelang said we should not be blinded by the dollar sign or be coerced into signing deals that may be detrimental to us in the long run.
Mr. Lelang said this was a matter of national security and while details are sketchy, there may be constitutional implications and Parliament must be allowed to be informed of the details of this Agreement and debated prior to signing of this military pact.
Meanwhile, Former Prime Minister and Ialibu Pangia MP Peter O’Neil also expressed concern that the only people who seems to know about this security pact is the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the PM and Minister for Defense.
HE said the then Minister for Foreign Affairs recentl came out in the media to openly say he has been negotiating with the US Government about this Defense Cooperation Treaty and he is hoping this military pact will be signed during the US President’s visit.
" I’am told there will be Security Agreement to be signed between US and PNG,however, that particular agreement was never made public, never debated on the floor of Parliament, never been approved by Parliament so we are all going blind and some of the reports we are getting are concerning”
“PNG for the past 47 years existed as a sovereign nation, our foreign policy, “ Friends to all Enemy to none”, has been a long standing policy that has been carried out by many governments in the past.”
O'Neil believes if PNG signs this Security Agreement with the US , then PNG will be entering into an uncomfortable position despite emerging geo-political conflicts between superpowers within the region and the global community.
“ You can see China emerging in our region, as one of the influential superpowers that is seen as a competition to the United States. After many years US is now seen to be taking an active interest in PNG and other pacific island countries after being absent for many years.
One must recall US has closed its embassies in many pacific islands countries, but in PNG , it had continued presence, however, at scaled down operations. “
“Our engagement with US has been since World War II, in the years 1943, 1944, 1945, where PNG got involved, not by choice, but because we were a colony of UK and then colonized by Australia after World War II and because of that, many of the allied forces were present in PNG and US was a key player in the outcome of the WW II,”he said.
“We are now a sovereign, independent nation capable of determining our own path, so that we can determine what kind of arrangements we can have with others within the region and with global partners. So we do have a choice of how we shape our Foreign Policy. From the information we gathered, the Agreement is that the pact was largely drafted by the US Government. Only a few of our own PNG Government officials and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs have seen this document and as a result has been put forward to the Prime Minister and officials to sign the agreement on the day of the visit of the US President," Mr O'Neil said.
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