FORMER Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has urged the Government to allow citizens, including himself, stranded overseas to return home, as required by law.
He said in a statement yesterday that by stopping Papua New Guineans from returning home, Prime Minister James Marape and the Government were breaching the Constitution and international law “which (required) every country to ensure that the wellbeing and rights of their citizens are protected and that they have the right to return home”.
O’Neill, who has been in Australia since February, called on the Government to “let everyone return”.
Attempts to get a comment from Marape yesterday were unsuccessful. But State of Emergency Controller David Manning said the repatriation of citizens abroad “is a work in progress”.
He admitted however that it had not progressed as quickly as other countries.
Manning assured every citizen stranded abroad that they would be brought back home.
“This is an ongoing activity and we remain committed to assessing case by case arrangement to not only see how best we can facilitate but also subsidise the cost of returning (citizens) back home,” Manning said.
He said nearly 800 citizens were stranded abroad, most of them in Australia.
“The main focus now is clearing stranded citizens in Australia, then the Pacific.
“The only restriction is the availability of flights.”
O’Neill said no citizen should be “begging” their own Government to return home.
“Papua New Guinea should not be a dictatorship where the Government decides who can come home and who cannot,” he said.
“The day this illegal restriction is removed, I will be on the next plane home.
“Marape must (allow) Air Niugini to accept bookings from all citizens. He knows that I will be home, that I will be in Parliament, and that I will take him to task for the damage he has brought upon our country.”
O’Neill said stopping citizens and residents from returning home could also expose the Government to costly legal action.
“Any of our people who has been illegally denied the right to return home can sue for the breach of their fundamental rights to return as citizens, for the harm that comes with being forced to remain unlawfully in a foreign country, and the psychological and emotional distress and costs incurred to remain abroad,” O’Neill said.