PNG PM expresses distate for discriminatory visa process

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. Picture: RNZ

PORT MORESBY, 31 AUGUST 2018 (POST COURIER) – Papua New Guinea  Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has described the process of acquiring an Australian visa as being “quite discriminatory” toward Papua New Guineans.

Speaking in Parliament when answering questions put forward by shadow Treasury Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey on PNG’s failure to harness the full potential of the Seasonal Workers Programme, O’Neill said that Australian Immigration were particularly stringent when dealing with persons of Papua New Guinean descent.

He said citizens from most other island nations around the Pacific found it much easier to attain visas and travel to Australia than Papua New Guineans and that this was a scenario that must be changed.

O’Neill said that Australia’s big brother role to PNG was very much respected by other island nations and that the avidly strict visa application process being practiced by Australian Immigration only acted adversely against the two countries’ relationship.

“It is unfortunate that Papua New Guineans are having a harder time getting visas today.

“The Australian visa acquiring process is quite discriminatory I must say and this is part of the reason why we have so few locals going for the SWP in Australia,” O’Neill said.

He said the Australian government must find a way to be more flexible with PNG citizens of good character, stating that it was only fair to treat people from PNG the same as persons from any other island nation.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea has reached the highest international security alert of level 4 as one of the world’s “no-go-zone” countries.

PNG is now among North Korea, Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Syria that the United Kingdom and United States have placed a level 4 alert on.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Emil Tammur is now calling for urgent intervention by relevant government authorities, stakeholders and local communities to curb law and order issues which are seriously affecting the country’s tourism sector.

Tammur expressed grave concerns that criminal activities such as armed hold-ups on tourists and tribal fighting in tourism hot spots were already having a negative impact with increased holiday cancellations and on PNG generally as a desired tourism destination.

He condemned the armed robbery of 20 tourists at Tawali Dive Resort in Alotau recently, where criminals took wallets, mobile phones, cameras and other personal items from tourists who had come from as far away as Europe, Asia and North America.

This is the third time one of the top dive resorts in PNG has been attacked,Tammur said.

He said the owners have faith in the tourism industry and have invested a substantial amount of money, and for such to happen is a massive blow to the passionate investors. He said local communities, police and leaders must address this forthwith in order to give some assurance to the travel agents and potential tourists.

“These tourists had a great time visiting cultural shows in Enga and Mount Hagen capturing magical moments on their cameras and having great personal experiences of the beauty of PNG only to be robbed on the last leg of their journey,” Tammur said.

“They have now all returned traumatised and with very bad memories of PNG. Is this the type of country we want to promote to the rest of the world?”

Tammur said the iconic Ambua Lodge in Tari has also been temporarily closed because of continuous tribal fighting with United States and the United Kingdom now placing the highest travel alert of level 4 for its citizens not to travel to Hela Province.

Bob Bates and Trans Niugini Tours have for decades promoted this great country of ours to international visitors, but PNG is not taking ownership and promoting peace.

He said Ambua Lodge is undoubtedly the best known tourism facility for European and American tourists and this is also the peak of the tourism season in PNG because it is the summer holidays for the Northern Hemisphere and the cultural festivals season for PNG with the Enga, Mount Hagen and Goroka shows.

Tammur said continuous tribal fighting has forced villagers away, such that there are no people in the villages that operator of Ambua Lodge, Trans Niugini Tours and others, normally use for cultural visits.

Air Niugini has also stopped flying into Tari making it difficult for PNG tourism operators to get tourists in and out of Tari.

“The United States and United Kingdom have placed a level 4 travel alert on the Hela Province. This is the highest level, and, it is the same travel alert for countries such as North Korea, Yeman, Iran, Iraq and Syria despite no single tourist or foreigner being hurt or killed in Hela,” Tammur said.

He expressed grave concerns that for every step being taken by the Tourism Promotion Authority to promote and lift the image and profile of PNG, such law and order issues set us back another 10 steps. He said Alotau, and Milne Province in particular, was a concern now because the World Bank and PNG Government’s US$20 million tourism hub development program was to be rolled out next month.

He said bookings by tourists for Ambua Lodge and Tawali Dive Resort to coincide with the cultural festivals and the diving seasons were now being cancelled by tourists.

Tammur said he would urgently be seeking audiences with his colleague Police Minister, national and provincial leaders from the respective provinces and other relevant stakeholders such as Air Niugini and PNG tourism operators to address these serious issues affecting tourism development in PNG.

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