Church leader slams deal

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday July 30th, 2013


A CHURCH leader has warned Australia not to use Papua New guinea as a dumping ground for refugees against the wishes of the people.

Pastor Newman Watapi, deputy chairman of the Lae Ministers Fraternal, said on Friday the signing of a deal between Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill came as a surprise to many Papua New Guineans.  

PNG has signed a deal with Australia, not only for Manus to become a major refugee processing centre, but for genuine refugees to be rsettled in Papua New Guinea.

Watapi said Australia, by not wanting to take any more boat people, had off-loaded the problem to PNG and used monetary benefits as a bait to lure this country into the deal.

“Has PNG gone broke financially? Watapi asked.

“Where are the millions and billions of kina from our natural resources like forestry, agriculture, mining gas and oil and marine resources?”

Watapi called on O’Neill, Finance Minister James Marape and Treasury Minister Don Polye to tell the people whether PNG was financially healthy or whether the refugee deal indicated internal problems. 

“The church is not against PNG being a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention but against the lack of wider consultation across the country,” he said.

He warned that the country had its own problems such as unemployment, rundown or non-existent infrastructure and poor health. 

Bringing people in from outside would put more pressure on existing resources and create problems, he said.

“Some of these people come from strong Muslim backgrounds and we might find our future generations serving religions other than Christianity,” he said.