AN expatriate lay missionary had his entry permit revoked and was deported from Papua New Guinea today because of what the government alleges is a “blatant abuse” of his visa “by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.
And the Catholic Archbishop of Rabaul, Francesco Panfilo SDB (pictured), has asked if this means “the level of corruption reached by the government is beyond remedy?”
Archbishop Panfilo said Douglas Tennent, a lay missionary from New Zealand and a former lecturer of law at UPNG, came to 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.
“It is sad to realise 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,” he said.
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.”