The National, Thursday 09th Febuary 2012
By GABRIEL LAHOC
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has committed K8 million to the search and rescue operations in Lae, to be used also as relief funds for the passengers of the mv Rabaul Queen.
Yesterday he gave K3 million to Patilus Gamato, the chairman of provincial disaster and emergency services and Morobe deputy provincial administrator. The balance of K5 million would be processed and delivered next Monday, he said.
He also promised that an independent commission of inquiry would be conducted into the sea disaster.
In addition, a new and bigger state-owned K7 million ferry, currently being constructed in New Zealand, will be used to assist in the shipping industry.
The government has appointed retired judge Warrick Andrews, who lives in Australia, to head the independent commission of inquiry.
O’Neill said the inquiry would be free from any government influence.
He pointed out that PNG and Australia both lacked the technology and equipment to salvage the ferry believed to be lying at a depth of around 1,300m.
The government had been in dialogue with the Japanese government to assist in this operation as they have the expertise and technological ability to conduct deep sea salvage operations.
He addressed the surviving passengers and their families, plus the families of those still missing at sea at St. Paul’s Primary School.
He earlier met the survivors camped at the Lae Catholic diocese at Top Town and the Salvation Army centre in Eriku.
O’Neill vowed that every passenger on that fateful voyage would be accounted for.
He said the people in the industry had been dictating and influencing how the industry was run and had compromised the safety of the travelling public.
He was accompanied by Finance and Treasury Minister Don Polye, Internal Security Minister John Boito, Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, West New Britain Governor Peter Humphreys, East New Britain Governor Leo Dion and President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville John Momis.