PNG PM Marape calls on Australian government to terminate Paladin contract
26 June, 2019, 3:55 pm
PORT MORESBY, 26 JUNE 2019 (POST COURIER) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape wants Australia to stop or terminate Paladin’s K1 billion (US$295 million) contract for security work on Manus Island immediately.
Marape told Parliament Tuesday that he did not want foreign firms to do work like security in Papua New Guinea, which could be done by local businesses.
The Australian government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is believed to be reviewing the contract which would be expiring at the end of this month and amid growing opposition in Australia against Paladin and renewal.
The K1 billion (AUD$423 million) security contract was awarded to the Paladin Group in 2017, a year after the PNG Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional and illegal for refugees to be held in a PNG detention centre and after the virtual prison on Manus was subsequently shut down.
Marape was asked by Northern Governor Gary Juffa what PNG’s position was in the controversial contract, given it was up for renewal.
Juffa specifically asked where PNG stood on this and why there had been no input from the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority.
“The awarding of this contract has some very strange circumstances, whereby a Foreign Affairs employee is said to have manipulated or influenced this contract and is now working for this very company,” Juffa said.
“Why can’t the PNG Immigration (and Citizenship Authority) be responsible for any such contracts?”
An irate Prime Minister Marape responded, saying he was aware this was a well-known case that had been in the public space for some time and would ask the Australian government to furnish a report, but also said Australia must cancel the contract immediately.
“I will ask the Australian High Commission here to furnish a report at the earliest and we don’t (want) foreign contractors to operate here in businesses like security, these are businesses that local companies can be engaged in,” he said.
“I ask the Australian government to stop this contract forthwith.
“I also ask our Foreign Affairs Minister (Soroi Eoe) and Immigration and Border Security Minister (Petrus Thomas) to convey this at the earliest to Canberra.
“And this arrangement to be reviewed in its fullest, and that where ever this contract is heading to be terminated as far as PNG government is concerned,” Marape said.
Earlier this year, the Opposition had voiced concerns about the Paladin contract with Moresby Northwest MP Sir Mekere Morauta saying an official Australian inquiry into the granting of contracts relating to the Manus Detention Centre should consider the possibility of official corruption involving senior PNG politicians and bureaucrats.
The inquiry, being conducted by Australian Auditor-General Grant Hehir, would cover all aspects of contracts for Manus and Nauru and would report next year.
“It seems clear that the Papua New Guinea government has put pressure on the Australian government and the Department of Home Affairs to appoint Paladin as the garrison services and security contractor for Manus,” Sir Mekere had said.