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The Pacific Solution and PNG’s sovereignty & security

Peter O'Neill and Kevin Rudd, 2013 (Fairfax)DENNIS URAMANI

THE Pacific Solution emerged as a policy of the Australian government under prime minister John Howard’s regime.

The policy aims at transporting asylum seekers to detention centres in small independent states within the Pacific region rather than allowing them to settle in mainland Australia.

When the policy was first introduced in 2001, it had bipartisan support from both the Liberal-National government and Labor opposition of the time.

The Australian government has a big problem on its hands with the influx of boats carrying people from different ethnic backgrounds who seek asylum in Australia.

Some asylum seekers are genuine, while others are searching for a better life. The Australian government needed to find an avenue to deal with the influx and accordingly introduced the Pacific Solution.

Offshore processing is to the advantage of the Australian government because on Australian soil asylum seekers have certain legal rights which make it difficult to send them back to their country of origin.

With the offshore camps in Manus and Nauru, the Australian government can easily process and settle them in a place other than Australia.

Australia, as a developed country in the Pacific region, is exercising its influence over the vulnerable developing Pacific island states including Papua New Guinea, which features greatly on Australia’s foreign policy radar.

The implementation of Australia’s Pacific Solution policy by the PNG government has led to the existence of the Manus Detention Centre and posed many uncertain questions in the minds of Papua New Guineans.

As a Papua New Guinean student interested in politics, this uncertainty creates a very big question in my mind.

Why did the PNG government accept and implement the Pacific Solution policy in the interest of the Australian government without realising the implications for PNG’s national sovereignty and security?

Our sovereignty defines Papua New Guinea as a legally recognised independent state in the international arena. Likewise our security is the cornerstone of the country and must be kept free of foreign threats and interventions.

The implementation of Pacific Solution came after diplomatic dialogue between the PNG and Australian governments.

The reopening of the Manus Detention Centre draws another question. Did the PNG government make a rational decision before signing the Regional Resettlement Arrangement Treaty?

The treaty was signed by prime minister Peter O’Neill and then Australian leader Kevin Rudd in May last year. It gave the green light for the full implementation of the Pacific Solution in Papua New Guinea.

It was a strange decision because Peter O’Neill and some few senior ministers did not consult elected Members of Parliament and through them the seven million population of PNG.

The Parliament was surprised when the treaty was signed. It was like selling our sovereignty by one-man making a decision rather than the collective decision-making of a democratic process.

PNG’s sovereignty was compromised, posing possible security threats such as human trafficking, money laundering, drug smuggling and other activities.

The Australian government pursued its Pacific Solution as a foreign policy approach to protect its own sovereignty and security not realising that it undermined PNG’s sovereignty and security.

From a global perspective, the so-called Pacific Solution could be seen as Australia’s hidden foreign policy objective to maintain hegemony over small Pacific Island states.

PNG's sovereignty is impinged because we have a patron-client relationship with Australia. So what is sovereignty if we need to repay our close friend Australia for all the aid they have given us over the years even after we formally got independence in 1975?

There is no free lunch. Our pro-Australian government ensures that every decision it makes is in the best interests of Australia.

Australia facilitates its interests in the Pacific to protect its own sovereignty and security without the realising that it may undermine the sovereignty and security of small Pacific Island countries.

As true Papua New Guineans taking pride of our unique and beautiful country, we must stand up for PNG’s sovereignty and security as they are of paramount importance.


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Bernard Yegiora

Dennis, continue to read, this is a very important foreign policy which has the potential to change PNG. Its implication on PNG's sovereignty and security (especially socioeconomic security) are areas that we need to do more research.

Jack Klomes

Firstly Dennis we also have to bear in mind that there are certain information that the government or in that case the PM is privy to that we the common citizens do not have that might have influenced his decissions. What I am trying to say is that the PM according to the information that he is privy to might have seen something beneficial to PNG or may be he was bullied, blackmailed or coerced into agreeing..we do not know but if you look carefully and read between the lines you might get an inkling. We should consider that too and not view O'Neil as someone still suffering from the "Yes masta" syndrome from the colonial era.

Secondly in todays Globalised world PNG is in big need of Polticians who a Poltically litretate!! And by that I mean Polticians who really appreciate geopolitics, aid politics etc and should know the art of converting that into tangible development in PNG and not pollies who make a big noise about bringing development to their electorates during campaigns but are suprised when they finally make it into the Parliament that a very differant ball game is being played. They are lost and the result is that in situations like this in Refegee Resettlement we have yoyos who just vote when they are told to because pity them they could not make heads or tails of what is politically happening around them in the international arena.

Bernard Yegiora

PNG can benefit from this arrangement by demanding more from Australia. See this as a bargaining chip. This year's Australia Award has increased its PhD scholarship quota from 5 to 13.

Barbara Short

You'll be pleased to hear that at the moment they are talking about sending the boat people on Nauru off to Cambodia to apply for refugee status.

You have to understand that the "boat people" included many who were "queue jumping" economic refugees.

I agree it was a bad idea to put some on Manus. Let's hope they will soon be moved on to another country.

At the moment there are real refugees all over the Middle East. Some are stuck on the top of a mountain range without food and water. The world, as always, is a sad place with horrible war atrocities and millions of refugees living in camps all over the place, being provided with food and water by the UN and various aid agencies and concerned governments.

Let us hope that the boat people on Manus will soon be moving on. It was meant to be a temporary solution to a complex problem.

It does seem to have done some of the people smugglers out of a living, which is a good thing.

David Kasei Wapar

The boomerang at its best.

Until we are independent economically we will still submit to those with the reins.

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