The National, Thursday 09th Febuary 2012
THE political crisis in PNG is an internal matter and is “for Papua New Guineans to resolve their political differences,” Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd told Federal Parliament on Tuesday.
In a ministerial statement on the first day of parliament which covered the ship disaster off Finschhafen, the landslide in Hides, the preparation for the 2012 national elections and the political impasse, Rudd said Australia was concerned but would play a quite diplomatic and supportive role.
“The ultimate resolution of political differences in a democracy is through the constitutional and electoral processes of that country,” he said.
“Australia respects PNG’s sovereignty.
“As our closest neighbour, however, and with the historical and contemporary close links between our countries and peoples, Australia has an abiding and strong interest in PNG’s political stability and economic development.
“PNG always has, and always will be, a key priority for Australian foreign policy.
“It has been a key focus of the prime minister, of mine, of the parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs, and the wider government.
“Our engagement with PNG and its key government figures has been deep and close.”
Rudd told parliament that since the decision of the Supreme Court on Dec 12, the political situation in PNG had been highly contested.
Legal action is being taken by both sides of politics in support of their claims.
He said during the first crisis in December, both the prime minister (Julia Gillard) and he, conveyed messages through diplomatic channels to the parties concerned on the fundamental importance of resolving constitutional, parliamentary and other political difficulties peacefully.
He said both AFP and Australian military personnel were actively engaged with their PNG counterparts in urging and maintaining calm but always in an advisory capacity.
“Together with political communications through our high commissioner, these combined efforts contributed to the effective settlement of the situation in December.
“The same approach was applied to the January crisis, which involved the temporary detention of the Commander of the PNG Defence Force.
“The engagement of our key officials in PNG was done in a calm, measured and respectful way, taking advantage of Australia’s engagement with PNG across all arms of government.
“It was a dialogue of equals: Australian police spoke to PNG police, soldiers to soldiers.
“I’d like to play particular tribute to our high commissioner in Port Moresby, Ian Kemish, and the staff in the high commission for their effective work throughout this period. The calm and effective way they went about their business was a case study in quiet diplomacy.
“The messages that we are sending to our friends in PNG as they deal with the challenging issues are that we respect your sovereignty. As your friend and partner, we take a close interest in developments and are there to help in whatever way we can.
“It is important that the issues are resolved with restraint and in a way that gives assurance to the international community about the stability of the country.”