High drama in Indon airspace

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 06th January 2012

THE Indonesian military scrambled two aircraft to track Air Niugini’s Falcon jet last November as it was returning home from Malaysia with VIPs on board, including Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah, it has been disclosed.
The P2ANW flight was in Indonesian airspace when the drama unfolded on Nov 29, unbeknown to Namah and his entourage.
He had demanded an explanation from the Indonesian Embassy in Port Moresby.
However, his request for a meeting with the Indonesian Ambassador was not granted.
According to protocol, it was required that the Foreign Affairs secretary would summon the ambassador and present a protest note on behalf of the PNG government to the Indonesian government.
Details on the incident surfaced in PNG in recent days when an Indonesian journalist started asking questions through PNG sources about the government’s reaction to it.
It was known that the Falcon F900 had left Subang, Malaysia, on Nov 29 for Port Moresby and was flying through the approved route which included flying over Indonesian airspace.
According to the Indonesian journalist, Indonesian authorities were tipped off that the aircraft was carrying substantial amount of cash in US dollars.
Indonesia, which has very strict laws on money laundering, scrambled two military jets to “escort” the PNG carrier through its airspace until it reached PNG airspace.
The crew on the aircraft included Capt Christopher Gregory Smith, Capt Vincent Kipma and attendant Dessie Benson.
The passenger manifest listed Namah, Obura-Wonenara MP John Boito, Bulolo MP Sam Basil, private lawyer Bonny Ninai, Australian Anubhav Tadav and Malaysians Tee Kim Tee, Tan Bing Hua and Tan Keh Feng.
The Falcon crew had furnished a three-page report about the incident which would be delivered to the PNG government for further action, including an official protest note to Jakarta.
Namah yesterday vehemently denied that he or his group were carrying substantial amount of US dollars aboard the Falcon.
“We went through the normal immigration and customs checks to get clearance to fly to Papua New Guinea,” he said.