14 Jun 2017

Bishops conference warns of disregard for PNG law

10:06 am on 14 June 2017

Papua New Guinea's Catholic Bishops Conference says the deportation of a New Zealand missionary exposes a high-level disregard for PNG's laws.

Rochus Tatamai

Rochus Tatamai Photo: Lasallian Mission Council

Despite a court order staying his deportation, Douglas Tennent was forced to leave PNG yesterday after being told on Friday by immigration officials he was abusing the conditions of his religious worker visa.

Mr Tennent had been working at the Rabaul diocese where one of his roles was helping local communities negatively affected by palm oil operations of the multi-national Rimbunan Hijau.

The chairman of the Conference, Bishop Rochus Tatamai, suggested that the politically influential Rimbunan Hijau was behind the move.

"It is a well orchestrated move to almost frustrate all the processes without any due respect for our own rules and our own laws," said Mr Tatami.

"Even just let alone common sense and decency and all things, this is how we defeat ourselves, because I am asking the question here, who are we actually serving: our own people or the foreigners?

"I am first and foremost calling for the rule of law ... to be properly followed. Procedures are in place we have to abide by," he said.

"Importantly we have to do everything possible to always be on the side of our poor people who are vulnerable and always left without consideration because the big people and big companies are always supportive of the interests of foreign investors at expense of our people."

Bishop Tatamai said the immigration minister's move to cancel Mr Tennent's visa was clearly linked to his advocacy for the people of West Pomio who had been marginalised by logging and subsequent palm oil development.

"What we are saying is that missionary workers or people we've asked to come to work with the church, they do not work for any interests or profit whatsoever but they actually support us in the integral human development of our people," Bishop Tatamai explained.

"A big part of it is working around with us to support and promote the needs of our poor people, especially in the rural areas."