MANY Papua New Guineans who gathered at the Jackson International Airport to welcome and get a glimpse of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton yesterday were disappointed.
Mrs Clinton’s visit here and to New Zealand and Australia was cancelled in the last minute due to the killer earthquake in Haiti.
Preparations for the visit were made by the PNG Government, US Embassy and the US State Department advance team.
Many of those involved in the preparations were disappointed by Mrs Clinton’s decision to postponed the scheduled visit but agreed that the disaster in Haiti warranted her attention.
Early yesterday morning, a crowd started gathering at the airport to greet one of the most powerful women on earth but when news spread that she was not coming, they left disappointed.
Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said: “While we are saddened by the news, we understand the US State Department’s decision to recall the secretary of state due to the disaster in the Republic of Haiti.
“Mrs Clinton called personally to inform of the detour to Haiti. I spoke by phone with Mrs Clinton …she conveyed her sincere apologies for the sudden change in plans as she had to go to Haiti where millions have been affected by a massive earthquake.”
Sir Michael told reporters in a mid afternoon press conference that Mrs Clinton, assured that she would reschedule another visit to the region in the near future.
The premier also thanked the National Capital District Commission, PNG Gardener, Police, Civil Aviation, National Parliament, including schools in NCD and civil society groups, for their efforts in planning and preparing for the high-profile visit.
The US Embassy said in a statement: “Due to the serious tragedy in Haiti, secretary Clinton’s Asia-Pacific visit is officially postponed.”