THERE needs to be transparency and fairness in regards to who meets the cost of repatriating PNG citizens back to PNG during the Covid-19 shutdown.
It is heartening to read in yesterday’s The National that a number of our elite sportsmen and woman that were stranded in Noumea have been repatriated back to Port Moresby and are now in isolation at a hotel.
On the second page, there is another news item relating to the PNG consular-general in Jayapura expressing his disappointment that an Air Niugini chartered flight to Yogyakarta (Indonesia) presumably this week had returned to PNG without picking up the 24 PNG citizens who are stranded in Indonesia.
This news item demonstrates a lack of communication and coordination between our foreign affairs officials.
Some PNG citizens who have since been airlifted from Brisbane, Australia in the last couple of weeks to PNG had been instructed by the Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to pay their own airfares and meet the cost of the 14 days isolation in the hotels in Port Moresby before they could be airlifted.
While this has been kept under wraps from the public, newspaper reports of the repatriations are written in a way that portrays or assumes that the Government has met the full cost of the repatriations. This is entirely misleading and untrue.
Citizens will recall a news report in which the Foreign Affairs Minister Patrick Pruaitch stated publicly that it would cost the Government at least K15 million to repatriate Papua New Guineans from abroad.
It is not clear if this money has been made available but citizens are being made to pay for their own repatriation and isolation costs.
The consular-general in Jayapura needs to be informed of this requirement otherwise it would be unfair that he is trying to repatriate the stranded citizens in Indonesia at the tax payers cost.
We are also not sure if our sportsmen and woman had also been made to pay their own repatriation and isolation costs.
It may be that they and the stranded citizens in Indonesia have also paid their repatriation costs, hence the consular-general is complaining.
But this is a travesty if citizens are been forced to pay their own way back to PNG while others are allowed back in free at the tax payers cost.
However, if other citizens are being repatriated back to PNG at the Government’s cost (paid for from the tax we pay) than it would be unfair and an injustice to the citizens who have already paid their own repatriation and isolation costs.
After all we are all tax paying citizens.
We pay our equal share of tax if not more.
Every PNG citizen deserves to be treated fairly and equally regardless.
On behalf of the citizens who have paid their own way back to PNG.