Social Concerns Notes – June 2017

Electoral corruption in PNG: caught between the law and a hard place

http://devpolicy.org/electoral-corruption-png-caught-law-hard-place-20170619/?utm_source=Devpolicy&utm_campaign=4974601b56-ANUUPNG_CAMPAIGN_2017_02_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_082b498f84-4974601b56-227683090 by Sam Koim, Grant Walton June 19, 2017
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is about to go to the polls. From 24 June 2017, voters will line up to choose MPs for 89 ‘Open’ and 22 Provincial electorates. If past elections are anything to go by, containing corruption will be a significant challenge. In the 2012 election there were widespread reports of bribery and fraud involving candidates, citizens and electoral officials. Electoral observers also found that bribery, fraud and ‘money politics’ were spreading from the highlands to the coastal regions.

There has been some progress around electoral corruption since the last national election. In October 2013, PNG’s Supreme Court found that all forms of exchange of goods and money by candidates during the election period amounts to illegal bribery. The ruling suggested such activities should occur prior to the election period. This stricter approach is beneficial, as it is designed to discourage candidates from participating in expensive customary obligations, and to mitigate voters being influenced by money politics.A potentially more potent law is Section 215 of the PNG Organic Law on National and Local Government Elections (OLNLGE). It vests in the National Court of PNG the authority to declare an election void if it finds that the candidate had committed or had attempted to commit bribery or undue influence to get elected. Such a finding by the court does not bar or prejudice a prosecution for bribery under the CCA.

Despite these legal instruments there is little to suggest corruption will be significantly contained in 2017. For a start the Electoral Commission is suffering from a lack of funds, as are the police. The ratio of citizens-to-police has significantly worsened– it is nearly four times worse now than during PNG’s independence in 1975. Sitting MPs have distributed their growing constituency funds over the past five years, which have been used to strengthen patronage among past and potential supporters. In many places, this is likely to increase expectations of largesse distributed during the election campaign. More importantly, there are few indications of significant shifts in the complex socio-cultural factors that drive corruption during elections. Research has found that citizens, particularly women, feel obliged to vote for local ‘big men’. Citizens also justify selling their vote due to material concerns, such as poverty and lack of state services.

Recently people have been getting around the Supreme Court’s ruling banning ‘money politics’ during campaigns by extending mourning periods (haus krai) for deaths, and scheduling compensation payments, bride prices, feasts and other festivities through the election period. Despite the ban, one of us (Sam) has observed political events that have continued through the official electoral campaign period. Given these factors it is unlikely that, in and of itself, a change of law will significantly reshape electoral practices – even though this is a step in the right direction.

Due to the inability of the PNG state to enforce its laws, many are rightly worried that this year’s election will see a rise in vote-buying, electoral engineering and other forms of corruption. For the doomsayers it’s worth remembering that PNG is one of the few developing countries that have not succumbed to military rule since independence. Democracy has been severely challenged but the country has not descended into dictatorship…

‘Corruption beyond remedy?’ Archbishop attacks deportation

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/corruption-beyond-remedy-prelate-attacks-missionary-deportation.html#more
AN expatriate lay missionary has had his entry permit revoked and was due to be deported from Papua New Guinea yesterday because of what the government alleges is a “blatant abuse” of his visa “by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”. Archbishop Panfilo said Douglas Tennent, a lay missionary from New Zealand and a former lecturer of law at UPNG, came to the East New Britain as a lay missionary with an entry permit as a ‘special exemption/religious worker’.“In the Archdiocese he serves as the Administrator,” Archbishop Panfilo wrote in a pastoral letter copied to prime minister Peter O’Neill. “The Archdiocese provides him with board and lodging and with an allowance. He is not paid an expatriate salary. “Those who live at Vunapope know very well that he works 15 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to solve the many land issues that we still have.”

One of Mr Tennent’s many tasks – and the one that seems to have raised the ire of the PNG government – was to help achieve a broad consensus around landowner issues at the Sigite Mukus palm oil project in West Pomio. In his role as Administrator, Archbishop Panfilo said Mr Tennent was “tasked to carry out the decisions of the finance council and of the land board of the Archdiocese. He does not act on his own.” The Archbishop said the people of West Pomio had asked him “to speak up for them” and he had asked Mr Tennent to provide legal advice. He said he was “very grateful to Mr Tennent for his advice and concrete help.” Archbishop Panfilo said on Friday afternoon two officers from the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority came from Port Moresby to serve Mr Tennent with a ‘Notice of Cancellation of Entry Permit’ and a ‘Direction as to Custody and Removal Order’. Mr Tenent was told that he had to leave PNG by yesterday (Sunday) or he would be “subject to be detained and removed involuntarily”. There was no provision for appeal.

“What crime did Mr Tennent commit?” Archbishop Panfilo asked, adding that, in regard to land matters and in advocacy for the people of West Pomio, the person ultimately responsible is the Archbishop. “Consequently, if anybody needs to be deported for what we are doing, then it is the Archbishop,” Archbishop Panfilo said. “Does this mean that the level of corruption reached by the government is beyond remedy? The Archbishop concluded his letter by asking people to “pray that the upcoming national elections may give us leaders who are committed to the achievement of a just and peaceful society.”

PNG owes much to its missionaries (Mr Pato please take note) (by Daniel Kumbon)

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/png-owes-much-to-its-missionaries-mr-pato-please-take-note.html#more 17 June 2017
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato should be ashamed of himself if he gave the approval for lay missionary Douglas Tennent to be deported from Papua New Guinea. Missionaries appear to be his targets for deportation. There have been a number of other cases. The minister should know that Catholic and Lutheran missionaries were the first to bring essential services like health and education to his own Enga Province in the late 1940s. Foreign Minister Rimbink himself attended St Paul’s Lutheran High, the first to be established near his village in Wapenamanda by missionaries. The very first two Lutheran missionaries to set foot in Enga were Reverend Dr Otto Carl Hintze Jr and Rev Willard Burce who settled at Yaramanda near Rimbinks village. Dr Hintze, who died recently aged 93, had to beg Rimbink Pato from his wheelchair to reverse a decision he made to deport missionaries working in Enga Province. For those interested to read more about this saga, the book is available free online. It is also sold at the University of Papua New Guinea Bookshop in Port Moresby.

‘The hospital is out of everything’: PNG crippled by drug shortage

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/the-hospital-is-out-of-everything-png-crippled-by-drug-shortage.html#more | Radio New Zealand International. 20 June 2017
ON Tuesday night, an elderly woman went to Mt Hagen Hospital after she was slashed in the forehead, but doctors had no supplies or antibiotics to stitch and treat her wound. On the same night, doctors driven to desperation having run out of gauze resorted to using patients’ clothes to soak up blood and cover wounds. The dire situation at Papua New Guinea’s third-largest hospital is a scene playing out in hospitals around the country, where health centres have been crippled by a months-long drug shortage that doctors say has been in the making for years.

“The hospital is actually out of everything,” said David Vorst, deputy chief executive of Mt Hagen Hospital. “We’ve got doctors and nurses working very difficult circumstances delivering babies, for example, without any gloves to protect them.”
As the supplies that were left dwindled, the hospital was driven to seek unused supplies from remote clinics, aid posts and charities. As they ran out, funds were cobbled together to make up for the money the department wasn’t paying. But that could only last so long and last weekend, the shelves were bare. There were no antibiotics, bandages, IV lines, anything, said Mr Vorst.

On Wednesday, a meeting was held on the hospital’s forecourt, where an angry public was told the hospital had nothing available to treat patients at a time when the emergency department was faced with a surge in injuries from election-related violence. But the situation in Mt Hagen is not unique. The secretary of the PNG National Doctors Association, Sam Yockopua, said many hospitals around the country were struggling to stay afloat.

“About eight hospitals have actually shut down their doors or partly shut down for emergencies only,” he said. “At the trend at which we are going, by the end of this month 90 percent of the hospitals will shut down.”

The crisis in the country’s hospitals and health centres had been building for months, if not years, the doctors and administrators said. In PNG, drugs and supplies are procured centrally by the Department of Health, but many of the country’s hospitals have received nothing close to what is needed. Mr Vorst said Mt Hagen Hospital only received about 30% of the supplies it asked for each year, and of that, only about 10% of the quantity requested.

“Two months ago at a board meeting, the national Department of Health rep said ‘look, we’ve got K500,000 earmarked for you guys, just send us a list’,” said Mr Vorst. “We did – very, very quickly – and in return we got a box of abdominal swabs. That was it,” he said.
“Unfortunately the patients are the victims of this, rather than the beneficiaries,” said Mr Vorst.

The plight of Little People

WARIME GUTI | Translated by Keith Jackson
See original at http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/people-know-that-peter-oneill-his-ministers-do-not-tell-the-truth.html#more 21 June 2017
TODAY I went to the pharmacy to buy a GlucoMeter. The man ahead of me in the queue looked very ill and he had a note from the hospital nurse prescribing the medicine he must purchase. He gave the note to the cashier who looked at it and said the total cost would be K31 for Mala-Wan and Primaquine. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out K20, only enough to buy the Mala-Wan but he was short of the full amount of money.
I was greatly saddened by this. I looked right at the cashier and thought he must see plenty of sick people who have little money. The cashier was sorry for these people, but what could he do? It wasn’t his shop or a public hospital. The pharmacy was a business. I nodded my head and the cashier knew what I was thinking and gave the man the medicine which I was going to purchase for him. At the time I nodded my head I felt sorry for the cashier because he was finding it difficult to tell people who are short of money that they did not have enough to buy the medicine they need.
Papua New Guinea’s free health policy…. Whatever happened to it?

How long can the sick wait?

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/how-long-can-the-sick-wait.html#more09 June 2017
TODAY at the clinic I was glad to have special attention. The doctor was very nice and we talked. I shared about what I witnessed in the clinics and health centres in the last four weeks in Port Moresby, Bereina, Kwikila and Hula.Patients were turned away or prescriptions written for them due to no medicine. I saw sick people in bed, some putting their hand out for ‘quinine’. I am lost for words when I visit one sick in Port Moresby. She is already tired of being sent to the pharmacy. Too weak to sit up she didn’t want to say any more.

The big question for me as I lay in bed trying to get well myself is how many people like my sisters in Baruni and Kamali in Rigo are giving up on life just because our health system continues to fail them – the sick. I think of the doctors and nurses who dig into their pockets so that the sick can have that prescribed medicine from the pharmacy. Bless their hearts. I think of the economic woes of this country and how the sick would choose food over medicine so that their families can have a meal.
How much longer can the sick wait? Think of the doctors and nurses who dig into their pockets so that the sick can have that prescribed medicine from the pharmacy. Bless their hearts. I think of the economic woes of this country and how the sick would choose food over medicine so that their families can have a meal.
How much longer can the sick wait?

Men of honour awards on again

June 5, 2017 The National
THE hunt is on again for Papua New Guinea’s most extraordinary men. Nominations are being sought from individuals and organisations for Digicel Foundation’s Men of Honour awards which reward ordinary men doing extraordinary things to contribute to reducing violence in their societies. Men of Honour patron, former MP Dame Carol Kidu, said the awards acknowledged the efforts of ordinary Papua New Guinea men who were recognised by their communities for making positive contributions that challenged the perception that all PNG men were violent.

“For too long the view has been that PNG is a violent country and seen as a dangerous place to live in because of the perception that all PNG men are dangerous, violent and repress their womenfolk. “But we all know that not all PNG men are violent because through our Men of Honour campaign we have met some amazing men with incredible stories who are making huge impacts in the communities they are operating in,” Dame Carol said. There are seven categories for the Men of Honour awards and the nomination forms are available at the Digicel Foundation office and Digicel retail shops nationwide. Nominations close on Oct 31.

Bougainville president lays down law for his public officials

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/bougainville-president-lays-down-law-for-his-public-officials.html#more08 June 2017
BOUGAINVILLE president Dr John Momis says his government is encouraging a culture of accountability from ministers and parliamentarians down through the public service. “We must develop a culture that promotes excellence, rewards success and penalises those who do the wrong thing,” Dr Momis said. “I can no longer tolerate stories of corruption and fraud and I intend to take action to convene an inquiry to investigate the many allegations that have been raised.” The president also made it clear that people found to have done wrong, no matter how senior, will suffer the full weight of the law. “Enough is enough – things have to change,” he said. “If they do not, then we are destined for failure.”

PNG – Change Needed to Meet People’s Potential

http://www.pngblogs.com/2017/06/png-change-needed-to-meet-peoples.html?m=1
Friday, June 09, 2017
PNG politicians are failing their people. Their poor policies have led to dramatic declines in economic well-being – an extraordinary fall of over one-third since 1980. This is revealed by applying new numbers from the PNG National Statistics Office (NSO) and International Monetary Fund to PNG’s economic history. From 2012 to 2017, the average economic well-being for the people of PNG has declined by 2.8%. This reverses positive economic gains of 8.4% from 2000 to 2012. PNG is returning to the poor economic performance it experienced during the 1980s and especially the 1990s – lost decades for development. This is a shame. From 1980 to 2017, economic well-being in PNG per citizen declined by an extraordinary 40.4%. This is a development failure.

In contrast, the resource sector has grown strongly. It is now 48.1% larger per capita than in 1980. The resource sector boomed by 62% during the 1990s when the non-resource sector went backwards by 30.8%. From 2012 to 2017, once again the resource sector has boomed by 58.1% while the non-resource sector has gone backwards by 2.8%. PNG has a development model that looks after the resource sector, but not its people.

PNG’s greatest policy mistake since Independence has been too much focus on natural resources (such as LNG or gold) rather than its extraordinary people resources. …
[See the url above for the full version of this long but very interesting article]

Election 2017 – a time for people to lead and leaders to follow?

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/election-2017-a-time-for-people-to-lead-and-leaders-to-follow.html#more14 June 2017
SOMETHING interesting happened this month when Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord. Americans across the USA came out in large numbers and reiterated and reinvigorated their commitment to fighting climate change.A similar thing has been happening in Australia. While prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will not countenance putting a price on carbon, and is only grudgingly supporting renewable energy, the Australian public and private sectors are enthusiastically embracing renewable technologies while abandoning coal fired energy options.

This ‘people’s resistance’ phenomenon may also have currency in Papua New Guinea, particularly in the current election. Many thinking Papua New Guineans are deeply worried that the corrupt and incompetent government of Peter O’Neill will be returned to power and there are clear signs that a capable resistance might be developing. I can’t recall when there has been so much public criticism of a sitting government in Papua New Guinea. Even in the dark days of the Skate government criticism was muted.

In the run up to this election, social media is alive with discontent and, even if the traditional media hasn’t picked up on what’s going on, people in the streets and villages are talking about it. They are in effect reacting against what they perceive as O’Neill’s ‘plan’ for the future – more corruption and more plunder.
Recent estimates reveal that nearly 950,000 Papua New Guineans use social media and that use is growing quickly. Nearly a million people is a fair slug of the voting public. No wonder O’Neill was trying to suppress it.

Day of judgement: PNG and the O’Neill Government

June 9, 2017 http://devpolicy.org/day-judgement-png-oneill-government-20170609/?utm_source=Devpolicy&utm_campaign=d1ae7ae58e-Devpolicy+News+June+16+2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_082b498f84-d1ae7ae58e-227683090
Written by Bal Kama

Papua New Guinea enters its 2017 national election at the back of one of the most contentious periods of its democracy. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s reign began unexpectedly in August 2011 after the then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare was ousted by the PNG parliament following his long absence from the country due to illness.

The Supreme Court later reinstated Somare on 12 December 2011 only to be rejected by the O’Neill led parliament a few hours later, commencing a dark period of PNG’s democracy where the country appeared to have ‘two’ prime ministers for nearly seven months – O’Neill operated from the Parliament House and Somare from the Ela Beach Hotel. It was a period marked by a decline in public confidence in the judiciary, a divided police and armed forces and a perplexed public service.

The 2012 national election provided the ultimate showdown for the two warring factions. However, with an assurance to deliver the country from the misfortunes of Somare’s National Alliance government, O’Neill and his coalition partners found favour with the people. The 2011 constitutional impasse appeared to represent a change of the ‘old guard’ in PNG politics and an undesirable initiation for the new crop of leadership with Peter O’Neill hoisted to symbolise this transition.

Prime Minister O’Neill appeared at that time to represent the long awaited hope for the country. His government immediately appealed to the people through its flagship policies for free health and education services, and infrastructural development backed by a strong anti-corruption focus in the form of the Investigative Task Force Sweep (ITFS).

Projected revenues from the billion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) project and other resource developments in the country provided the assurances that his welfare policies would be sustained and effectively delivered. On the anti-corruption front, O’Neill pledged to support the ITFS to systematically ‘weed out corruption’ in PNG.

What has happened since? [See the URL above for the remainder of this article]

Our corrosive culture of corruption – & how to start eliminating it

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/our-corrosive-culture-of-corruption-how-to-start-eliminating-it.html#more20 June 2017. By Kessy Sawang. The Papua New Guinea Woman. Extracts
Sir Mekere Morauta, our former prime minister, likened corruption to cancer, presumably the malignant type. Sam Koim, former head of Task Force Sweep, described the rising tide of corruption using the boiling frog tale – descriptive but a parable nonetheless as it is scientifically incorrect. These concerns seem apt when we consider the performance of the last term of parliament and the executive government. The last government swept into power on a wave of optimism and promises that it would tackle the problem of corruption and restore good governance.

The Alotau Accord captured the commitments made by O’Neill’s government to the people of PNG of the initiatives it would undertake. There were pledges to “continuing the fight against corruption by proper funding and institutionalisation of the inter-agency committee against corruption in particularly Task Force Sweep. Further, the government will introduce the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Bill” O’Neill failed to bring the bill to parliament.

Corruption is the abuse of public office for private gain. Corruption should not only be thought of wilful abuse but also if one is aware of it and does nothing to bring it to the attention of appropriate authorities then there is a crime of complicity. For instance, the Bank of PNG an independent institution by law has breached its mandate by expanding the money supply by funding the government budget by K1.8 billion in 2016 alone. Without this funding the government would have stopped functioning if it had failed to adjust the budget. The Bank of PNG shockingly paid a dividend of K102 million in 2014 when it was technically bankrupt, ….
[For the remainder of this article, see the url above]

Single-handedly Alfred Masul got conservation on the move

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2017/06/single-handedly-alfred-masul-got-conservation-on-the-move.html 15 June 2017
A MAN from the Ulingan-Malala area of Madang Province has been praised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a role model in the fight against the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.
Community leader and conservation advocate Alfred Masul was commended for using his own initiative to start conservation activities using local knowledge and without much assistance from others. WWF project officers learnt of Alfred’s activities as they were rolling out a project among Madang’s north coast communities. They noticed that Alfred was already rehabilitating his area which was destroyed by a tidal wave some years before. He had established nurseries and started conservation work. WWF assisted Alfred with equipment to continue his mangrove rehabilitation and adaptation work. WWF also used Alfred’s initiative to conduct training on mangrove rehabilitation and adaptation. It brought in members of communities from Malala and Ulingan for hands on training at Alfred’s project site. Alfred said he started the project in 2005 as a means to conserve natural resources when he understood the effects of climate change and population on natural resources. In 2007, when he realised the rising sea was encroaching on his land, he began mangrove rehabilitation and approached WWF to do a survey. He currently has 2,000 mangrove seedlings and has planted more than 500.

Alfred’s approach to conservation is holistic. He has planted native trees in the forest, planted mangroves and associated species at the mouth of the river and created taboo areas in the bay so fish are not disturbed and can spawn freely. As a result, fish numbers and species have increased. She said they would like to work with individuals who have passion,

Breakouts blamed on delayed cases

June 23, 2017 The National
AMONG the 58 who broke out of the Buimo Prison in Morobe last month were several inmates who had been remanded and awaiting trial for more than nine years. Correctional Service Commissioner Michael Waipo said yesterday that some had been detained on “mere allegations” and have had their cases deferred. Such issues, he said, had led to overcrowding and outbreak of diseases had led to frustration and breakouts. Waipo was revealing findings of an investigation into the May 12 breakout during which 17 inmates were shot dead. He said a large number of them caught the warders off-guard and made a dash. “They dashed for freedom because their complaints that parole and licensed releases were not effective. “Some detainees have been spending more than nine years (behind bars) just waiting for their court cases. “Some remand detainees are held in custody based on mere allegations … with no evidence. Cases have been deferred to 2018 and 2019.”

Letter from Archbishop Panfilo regarding Deportation of Douglas Tennant

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On August 15, 2015 I issued Pastoral Letter 7 on how to respond in very practical ways to the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis “Laudato Sì” on the “Care of our Common Home”.

I wrote: “Convinced as we are that ‘the earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters’ (EG 183), we need to ask ourselves: how can we as Church, in very practical ways, care for our common home and be a Church that is poor and for the poor? … The Archdiocese of Rabaul is committed to the following:
1. Disposing of the land, especially of large plantations;
2. Starting a housing project for low income earners;
3. Helping achieve a broad consensus in the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project in West Pomio”.

We committed ourselves to these very challenging goals not only in response to the call of Pope Francis and in fidelity to the Social Teaching of the Church, but also because the Archdiocese could avail itself of the services of Mr. Douglas Tennent, a lay missionary from New Zealand and a former lecturer of law at the UPNG.

As mentioned, Mr. Tennent came to the Archdiocese as a lay missionary with an Entry Permit “Special Exemption/Religious Worker”. In the Archdiocese he serves as the Administrator.

The Archdiocese provides him with board and lodging and with an allowance. He is not paid an expatriate salary. Those who live at Vunapope know very well that he works 15 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to solve the many land issues that we still have.

On Friday, 9 June, in the afternoon two officers from the Office of the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority came from Port Moresby to serve Mr. Tennent with the “Notice of Cancellation of Entry Permit” and “Direction as to Custody and Removal Order”.

He was told that he no longer held a valid entry permit or visa to remain in the country lawfully and that he had to leave the country immediately. The document presented to him stated: “Should you fail to comply with this instruction you are subject to be detained and removed involuntarily”.

There was no previous notice, no chance to appeal since the notice was served on Friday afternoon and he would have to leave on Sunday, 11 June.

What crime did Mr. Tennent commit? The document served to him says: “The cancellation of your entry permit by the Minister is due to the blatant abuse of the conditions of your Special Exemption/Religious Worker visa by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.

As mentioned, Mr. Tennent is a lay missionary and is not paid an expatriate salary.

In regards to our commitments to “Disposing of the land, especially of large plantations” and of “Starting a housing project for low income earners”, Mr. Tennent is tasked to carry out the decisions of the Finance Council and of the Land Board of the Archdiocese. He does not act on his own.

As for the involvement of the Archdiocese in “Helping achieve a broad consensus in the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project in West Pomio”, Mr. Tennent provides legal advice to the Archbishop, who was asked by the people of West Pomio to speak up for them. This, the undersigned as done and is very grateful to Mr. Tennent for his advice and concrete help.

It should be very clear that in regard to land matters and in the advocacy for the people of West Pomio, the ultimate responsible is the Archbishop. Consequently, if anybody needs to be deported for what we are doing, then it is the Archbishop.

It is sad to realize that people who are hard working, dedicated and committed to serve the people of Papua New Guinea are treated in such a way.

Does this mean that the level of corruption reached by the Government is beyond remedy?

I would like to believe that there are still decent people in Government who are trying their best, just as we are trying our best to serve and care for those who do not have voice.

Let us pray that the upcoming National Elections may give us leaders who are committed to the achievement of a just and peaceful society.

+ Francesco Panfilo, SDB Archbishop of Rabaul

12 June, 2017
THE DEPORTATION OF MR. DOUGLAS TENNENT – from Archbishop Panfilo

Who is Mr. Douglas Tennent? He is well known in the country especially by many lawyers, having been a lecturer of law at UPNG for many years. He was also a lay missionary in the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen and in the diocese of Gizo in the Solomon Islands. He came to the Archdiocese of Rabaul at the beginning of 2014 as lay missionary. Since then he held the task of Administrator of the Archdiocese.

What is his greatest fault? Yes, he is very passionate about justice, about the Social Teaching of the Church to a fault. He will go out of his way to help the poor and the downtrodden. He has done this for 30 years. According to a prominent citizen of Papua New Guiinea “he should be given the right to a dual citizenship rather than being deported”.

On Friday, 9 June, in the afternoon two officers from the Office of the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority came from Port Moresby to serve Mr. Tennent with the “Notice of Cancellation of Entry Permit” and “Direction as to Custody and Removal Order”, which were signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

Mr. Douglas Tennent was picked up from Vunapope at about 10:45 a.m., on Sunday, 11 June, 2017 and brought to Port Moresby. Until 12:00 noon today we could not make contact with him. We finally were able to talk to each when he was already at Jackson airport, waiting to depart for New Zealand.

What is his crime? We don’t know! We don’t know who lodged a complaint against him and what the accusations against him are. The only thing we know is what is written in the Notice of Cancellation of the Entry Permit, signed by the Acting Chief Migration Officer: “The cancellation of your entry permit by the Minister is due to the blatant abuse of the conditions of your Special Exemption/Religious Worker visa by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.

What about his involvement in sensitive landowner issues?
• In regard to land issues, whether large plantations or the land in Kokopo, Mr. Doug Tennent was tasked to carry out the decisions of the Land Board of the Archdiocese. He did not act on his own.
• As for the involvement of the Archdiocese in the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project in West Pomio, Mr. Tennent was providing legal advice to the Archbishop, who was asked by the people of West Pomio to speak up for them.

Did Mr. Tennent blatantly abuse the conditions of his Visa as Religious Worker? Absolutely not! As I wrote in my previous letter: “Those who live at Vunapope know very well that he worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to solve the many land issues that we still have”. He worked exclusively for the Archdiocese of Rabaul, which provided him with board and lodging and a monthly allowance. He did not receive an expatriate salary.

As mentioned, the cancellation of Mr. Doug’s entry permit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs was due to “the blatant abuse” of the conditions of his visa as Religious Worker. With due respect, the blatant abuse of power came from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as from the Acting Chief Migration Officer.

In fact, since the entry permit of Mr. Tennent was for a period exceeding 6 months, the Minister abused his power by insisting on Mr. Tennent’s removal from Papua New Guinea, thereby denying the right to be present while his appeal, under section 6(2) of the Migration Act, was being heard and processed. In support of this view, the National Court at Kokopo, at about 11:00 a.m, Monday 12 June, 2017, issued orders staying the deportation order and prohibiting any airlines to transport Mr. Tennent. The document of the stay order was handed to the immigration officer in the International Airport at Port Moresby prior to the scheduled departure of Mr. Tennent.

Even though the undersigned is not a lawyer, it is very obvious that the purported notice of cancellation and order to leave the country is legally flawed in that the officers of immigration have exceeded their jurisdiction by denying Mr Tennent the right to be present while his appeal is heard or process..

Since the reasons given for the cancellation of Mr. Tennent’s entry permit appear to be vague generalities that do not warrant its cancellation, the Archdiocese of Rabaul has a right to know who lodged the complaints and the accusations against Mr. Tennent.

Any ordinary person knows that orders of this kind cannot be given unless there are powerful and wealthy institutions and personalities behind. For the sake of the ordinary and innocent people of PNG, we ask the Government to come clear once and for all.

In conclusion, I want to inform all seating candidates and aspiring candidates for National Elections that neither the Archdiocese of Rabaul or the Catholic Bishops’ Conference will take this matter lightly as it seems to imply that to work for justice is outside of a “Religious Worker” status.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us: “Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness, the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you” (Mt 5:10-12).

+ Francesco Panfilo, SDB Archbishop of Rabaul

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