31 May 2004

Australian and PNG Foreign Ministers to meet this week over stalled police deployment

8:43 pm on 31 May 2004

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer flies to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea this Friday to try and resolve a stalemate which has delayed the deployment of hundreds of police to PNG.

230 police and dozens of government officials were to be sent five months ago as part of an enhanced aid package aimed at restoring law and order and improving the functioning of government departments.

The deployment has been held up because Australia had asked that its personnel facing criminal charges come under Australia jurisdiction rather than PNG's.

The Australian request as been widely criticised as undermining the sovereignty of PNG.

A spokesman for the PNG Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu, says Mr Downer will also discuss whether Australia will continue to use the Manus Island detention centre.

The centre has no current inmates after the last of them, 25 year old Aladdin Sisalem, was granted a temporary protection visa by the Australian Government last week.