Accompanied by a 20-member delegation, Kevin Rudd arrived in Port Moresby at 10 o’clock morning on an Australian Defence Force jet, the first official visit by an Australian prime minister in eleven years. He was welcomed by PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal and singsing groups from the four regions of the country.
“The visit is an important statement by the Rudd government in terms of our relationship,” said Mr Abal. “It shows PNG is right back on the radar.”
Mr Rudd inspected a guard of honour before heading to Government House to meet the Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane. A planned protest by 500 Koiari landowners over the Kokoda Track issue was aborted when the National Security Advisory Committee warned them against it. Intelligence sources reported a foreigner was involved in instigating the protest, but the situation has been contained.
Mr Rudd is expected to canvass support from PNG to impose further sanctions against the Fijian military government, including a sports boycott to force rugby obsessed military leader Commodore Frank Bainamara to respect human rights and return the country to democratic rule.
This afternoon Mr Rudd has met Sir Michael Somare and his cabinet ministers and Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta and his deputy Bart Philemon. He will later visit Bomana War Cemetery to lay wreaths on the Cross of Sacrifice. Tomorrow Mr Rudd will fly to Goroka to visit the Institute of Medical Research and meet with representatives of the Save the Children and Appropriate Technology Projects.
He will also observe a coffee-tree-to-cup display, and view a traditional mumu before looking around Goroka Hospital and the Daulo district administration before returning to Port Moresby.
Sources: PNG National and PNG Post Courier. Photo: PNG National
A reminder for you to complete our ASOPA PEOPLE SURVEY [at left]