23 Aug 2005

Multilateral approach suggested for PNG law and order problem

8:18 am on 23 August 2005

A multi-lateral approach has been suggested as a solution for Australia's stalled multi-million dollar aid operation in Papua New Guinea, the Enhanced Co-operation Programme.

The ECP collapsed in May, over the refusal of PNG to provide Australia police working there immunity under PNG law.

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, and Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, will be in Port Moresby today for talks with PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Security Minister, Bire Kimisopa.

Pacific security expert, Dr Sinclair Dinnen, of the Australian National University, expects a compromise, and says one approach that could bring benefits for both countries, would be to involve other Pacific nations in the exercise.

"It would certainly provide a degree of legitimacy to any significant aid package to the RPNGC [Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary], if it did have some regional involvement and indeed that is one of the strong points of the engagment in the Solomon Islands. Of course this would all depend on the PNG Government being prepared to approach the Forum with a request."

A New Zealand Government official says that there have been informal discussions about the possibility of involving other Pacific nations in assisting PNG.