By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI in Brisbane
PAPUA New Guinean border crossers were involved in abducting an Australian woman at gunpoint in the Torres Strait Islands recently, an inquiry has been told.
PNG nationals, who are believed to be traditional border crossers, were also accused of crossing into the Saibai and Badu islands in the Torres Strait at will, “at any time they like, any time of the day and stay as long as they like”.
They were also accused of moving in and occupying 30 of the new 100 homes built on Badu Island and were involved in gun-running and drug smuggling – mostly cannabis.
The claims were made in a senate inquiry into matters affecting Torres Strait islanders on Thursday Island early last week and then heard further reports in Brisbane during the week.
Concerned about the reports, PNG’s consul-general in Brisbane Paul Nerau told The National he would make it a priority to visit Thursday Island and collect first-hand information regarding the situation on the ground and recommend a set of proposals to the Government on how best to deal with the problem.
Torres Strait regional authority chairman John Kris told the senate inquiry that islanders were basically without Australian police presence, which allowed Papua New Guineans to move at will and, recently, abducted a Sabai woman at gunpoint.
Torres shire mayor Pedero Stephen told the inquiry police response times were too slow because of travel times from their base on Thursday Island.
The five-man senate inquiry heard that the islands were vulnerable to border-hoppers from PNG, unresolved crimes and foreign diseases.
Reports in the past also pointed to drug-smuggling and gun-running between PNG and the Torres Strait Islands.
A 1985 Torres Strait treaty between PNG and Australia allowed for certain freedom of movement privileges among traditional border crossers.
Mr Nerau said the problem could be associated with lack of services on the PNG side of the border, but he would have to visit the area before making recommendations.