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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Vanuatu Minister: PNG Visit Not Related To Phocea
Carlot denies arrest report, says ‘fugitive’ a legitimate diplomat

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 23, 2013) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has refuted media allegations linking his government to a fugitive wanted in Vanuatu, involved in the Phocea controversy, Pascal Anh Quan Saken, who arrived in a Boeing 737 jetliner which made an unexpected illegal landing at Jackson's Airport, last Friday evening and informed the incident is under probe by Police, Customs, Civil Aviation and Immigration authorities.

"Whether the passengers are internationally wanted persons for alleged crimes will be made known after the investigations. Similarly, we will know what type of cargo is aboard that aircraft after the probe," he said.

In his statement of which Daily Post has a copy he said, "To link that aircraft's unexpected illegal landing, its passengers and cargo to anyone including my ministers and myself is utterly and absolutely false.

"These allegations which obviously are speculative and designed to smear our government are not supported by evidence and therefore are not true, period."

The PNG Prime minister said he has not received a report of the investigation yet but is aware of the incident.

He appealed to Papua New Guinean social media commentators and mainstream media workers and organizations to be responsible and truthful when commenting or writing about national issues.

Meanwhile sources from Papua New Guinea informed the PM O’Neil also held a Press Conference 3pm yesterday over the issue.

Also yesterday afternoon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Vanuatu issued a clarification statement labeling the allegations against Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Carlot as "highly politicized... which the media appeared to have demonized the mission without substantive issues and unfortunately linking it to Phocea registration".

Minister Carlot said the trip to PNG had nothing to do with Phocea and there was no arrest in Port Moresby as implied. Rather he travelled to PNG from Brisbane with the PNG Foreign Minister and were both received by Protocol at the airport, a courtesy appreciated by the MOFA.

The minister said he was not aware meetings were being arranged for two PNG Ministers whose names are "now known" and advised the media against making incorrect statements which could have diplomatic repercussions.

"The MOFA is seeking every available window of opportunity to advance the work of the Foreign Service, amidst the budgetary constraints and negative allegations," he said.

"It is appropriate for new missions to be opened in strategically new areas. Ni-Vanuatu officials must be posted in our overseas missions.

"These are important work that must be achieved by the ministry and as a Foreign Minister, I have to be proactive and seek innovative ways and partnerships to achieve these objectives on behalf of our Government and people.

"I am working for the national interest and I have nothing to do with Phocea registration."

He reiterated Mr. Pascal Anh Quan and Mr. Henry Charles Saken had diplomatic appointments which followed the normal legitimate processes of the Government through the Council of Ministers and their diplomatic appointments were given by the Government and where there are outstanding international contributions that Vanuatu owes some international organizations such as UNESCO, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to find ways to seek financial support from certain people appointed as our diplomatic representatives to assist the Government , so new projects could be opened up for Vanuatu.

"There is no private political matter being discussed. It is to do with our national interest abroad and I am simply doing my duty as a Foreign Minister," he concluded.

"If there allegations against the Sakens, because of the clearance and registration of Phocea or of the chartered aircraft to Port Moresby, then it is a technical matter that requires effective compliance by them. But under normal international diplomatic custom, once a State gives a diplomatic appointment to a person, then it has an obligation to ensure they are given the support necessary to do their work and even to travel with ease. This is normal.

"It is unfortunate that there are elements in Vanuatu who are demonizing such missions as private and personal. And the allegations from the media have been enormously corrupted and poisoned by personal and political motives."

He assured the MOFA will continue to execute and defend Government policies with the aim of promoting the national interest and he met the Prime Minister yesterday to discuss the achievements of the mission.

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