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PNG-Indonesia Border Incident Reportedly Being Settled
Foreign minister says investigations into incident ongoing

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 24, 2013) – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato says the incident between the Wutung villagers and armed Indonesian soldiers is a matter that is being dealt with on mutual terms.

This is the explanation from Mr. Pato after about two weeks of the border flare-up between disgruntled youths, the people of Wutung, and Indonesian soldiers.

"The PNG-Indonesia relations is guided by the ‘Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Cooperation’ signed in October 1986 by the Foreign Ministers of both countries," Mr. Pato said in a press statement on Tuesday.

"The administration of the common land border is critical for PNG and solving problems arising from this administration should be dealt within the framework of this border agreement."

During recent two weeks, disgruntled local landowners or traditional border crossers (TBC) staged two separate confrontations with the Indonesian soldiers.

"The reports reaching my office indicate that the tension is a result of dissatisfaction over restrictions set by Indonesian border authorities to allow them to access their food gardens on the other side of the border as agreed to by the two countries under the ‘traditional border crossing arrangements.’"

"The landowners have also raised concern over economic benefit-sharing in the spin off activities at the Wutung-Skouw Post Trade Centre," Minister Pato said.

On Monday, January 14, border Officers from both countries met at the Indonesian Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) to resolve the situation and proposed for an urgent Border Liaison Officers Meeting (BLOM) to convene to discuss the incident and matters affecting the border.

In the interim, only passport holders, traditional border crossing, pass holders (entry) and villages accessing their gardens will pass through the two border posts.

The Minister also said an investigation team comprising officials from relevant agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration would be dispatched to the border post to ascertain the facts surrounding the events.

"In additional to the investigation team, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is preparing in close consultation with the Department of Provincial Affairs to appoint a permanent officer to the department’s Vanimo office," Minister Pato said.

He said pending the findings of the investigating team, increased efforts would be made to address the problem and to avoid future confrontation.

Mr. Pato said this included the possibility of stopping PNG citizens from having access to the shops at Batas market on the Indonesian side of the border and the possibility of establishing a separate border command purposely to address border issues and law and order problems.

He said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill made a statement on this matter and that should explain the Government’s overall position in these matters.

PNG Post-Courier:
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