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Financial crisis in PNG leaves ammunition stockpile sitting unclaimed in Geelong region

An ammunition stockpile the height of a house, which was sent to Australia to protect world leaders including US President Donald Trump, is sitting unclaimed in a Geelong region warehouse because the Papua New Guinea Government can’t pay for it.

The huge ammunition order, which required US State Department approval to send to Australia for forwarding to PNG was, according to exporters, made specifically to arm officially designated police and security forces preparing for the APEC leaders’ forum in Port Moresby later this year.

But for more than eight months it has sat abandoned in an undisclosed secure warehouse believed to be in the Geelong region, with a cash-strapped PNG Government unable to pay for it.

The issue has raised concerns about the preparedness of the security programme for the APEC summit this November, which will host some of the most powerful leaders in the world including Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and leaders and dignitaries from Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and Japan.

The stockpile includes 250,000 .9mm pistol bullets, 200,000 rounds of 5.56mm assault rifle ammunition and 20,000 40mm rounds.

The order from America’s Winchester Ammunition Inc. was worth about $800,000 (US$621,000), with the purchase order signed in February 17 last year by PNG’s Police Commissioner Gari Baki.

Winchester confirmed a consignment of 200,000 Australian-made shotgun shells had been shipped to PNG police in October last year, but the bulk of the order was being stored outside Melbourne.

A spokesman for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary said they were aware of the issue.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has budgeted $50 million (US$38 million) for APEC but with in-kind contributions and staffing at least double that is expected to be spent by the Federal Government.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who visited PNG last month was assured all preparations were on track for the important summit.

A huge conference centre that was looking like a white elephant with poor fittings and acoustics will be ready after the Chinese Government recently paid AUD$35 million (US$27 million) for its construction and completion as well as other infrastructure projects in Port Moresby.

The Chinese Government recently donated firearms to the Philippines and may well assist with PNG’s ammunition order.

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