27 Feb 2004

PNG police minister is confident of resolving immunity issue with Australia

9:39 pm on 27 February 2004

Papua New Guinea's police minister says he is confident of resolving the "sticky issue" with Australia over proposed immunity for 230 Australian police being deployed to PNG.

Minister for Internal Security Bire Kimisopa has confirmed that PNG's Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare was opposed to granting legal immunity to the Australian police and bureaucrats.

Mr Kimisopa says PNG should grant immunity because it is the "usual practice worldwide" but says officials are in the process of discussions so nothing has been concluded yet.

"From a government point of view mnofficials from both countries will take at least two weeks"

to go through the whole list of immunities and privileges that are being sought for this deployment. So at this point in time basically what the Prime Minister was alluding to was ..

the fact that we have not concluded the discussion on immunities and privileges .

But even if the PNG government were to soon agree to the immunity, the laws cannot be enacted until parliament returns from its controversial five month adjournment.

Sir Michael adjourned parliament until June to protect himself from a likely vote of no-confidence - which could mean he risks being ousted if he returns to deal with the Australian laws.