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PNG Deputy Opposition Leader. Sam Basil.
Hon Sam Basil said that the Prime Minister O’Neill’s ‘Regional Refugee Resettlement Agreement’ with Australia is highly improper and risky to the long term interest of Papua New Guinea. The Opposition warned Members of Parliament about removing the constitutional checks and balance. Mr Basil said that the amendments paved the way for abuse of power by a Prime Minister. This Agreement was signed unilaterally by the Prime Minister without regard for oversight and sanction by the National Executive Council and the National Parliament.

Hon Basil said that the original Memorandum of Agreement called the ‘Manus Island Regional Processing Centre’ was for processing only of Asylum Seekers and those found to be genuine to be sent to Australia for resettlement or sent elsewhere. This second Agreement called the ‘Regional Refugee Resettlement Agreement’’ is for processing as well as resettlement of refugees in PNG and other places. We are now taking over an Australian issue when we do not have the capacity as we have not been able to do that with the West Papuan issue. PNG does not have a policy on Asylum Seekers and Refugees and may result in problems as our brothers and sisters from West Papua have never been processed and resettled properly in this country. If the Prime Minister is serious then we should start with the resettlement of the West Papuan Refugees from Awin and Blackwater Camps

Mr Basil said that this arrangement is violating our own Constitution and international refugee and Human Rights protocols and may be subject to legal Class Action by the Asylum Seekers detained in a third country. He said the Prime Minister has committed PNG to a Treaty without oversight and debate by the Parliament, which is disrespectful to the highest authority in the land. Further, it is also shocking that the NEC never deliberated on the contents, which is a substantially amended Agreement.

As we have certain Members of Parliament and Ministers alluding to benefits, there is no financial benefit for PNG than what we are led to believe. The funding of Ramu Highway, Hospitals and Universities are to be funded partly from the annual Australian Aid of $450 Million and the PNG Government’s own funds over a five year period.

The various justifications provided by the Prime Minister have no basis and is pathetic. If we want PNG to play an active role in regional and international affairs, we must do that within the confines accepted international laws, international conventions and protocols and domestic law. 

Further, are we saying that we are providing a Regional Service, hence what about people who would enter PNG territory from Indonesia, Solomon Island and from the Micronesians? Are they going to be processed in Manus and resettled in PNG/

We all know that resettlement of refugees is a huge administrative and financial responsibility. In Papua New Guinea, we have yet to resettling refugees from West Papuans and our domestic refugees who are affected by natural disasters and socio-economic pressures. We have people from the Atolls, and Manam to be resettled. Our own people are yet to be properly housed, educated and fed and living in squatter settlements, and we are going ahead with a scheme that will blow up in our face.

State land is less than 3% yet we are talking of resettling people when people misplaced from Matupit Volcanic Eruptions, Manam and other problems are still having problems. Should the government purchase additional land for asylum seeker and refugee purposes, so must it, purchase or lease for all our landless people including the West Papuans and our domestic refugees.

Hon Basil said that the program is likely to be disastrous as PNG does not have a policy on Asylum Seekers and Refugees and on the whole issue. Many local companies are complaining when associated contracts have already been awarded to Australian companies. For example, a company in Western Australia has been awarded a contract worth more than AUD$136m to build houses for Asylum Seekers.

Mr Basil said that there are numerous social, cultural, religious and security concerns associated with such a grand scheme, the full extent and impact of which is not obvious or visible as yet but will slowly unfold and blow us from our comfort zones. The Opposition says that the Government must give back the Asylum Program back to Australians to deal with while we look at the constitutionality of the whole matter. We must help our friend Australia, and let there be no doubt about that. But let us do it lawfully, prudently and with mutual respect. 

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