Deported NZ missionary to push for reform on return to PNG

Set to return to Papua New Guinea ... New Zealand missionary Douglas Tennent's "moral obligation" to push for deportation reform. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC.

By Kendall Hutt in Auckland

Deported New Zealand missionary Douglas Tennent will hopefully be returning to Papua New Guinea in the next week.

This comes after the court ordered immigration services to issue Tennent a new visa last month which will see him return by or before August 8.

Tennent is scheduled to fly out on Friday, but is not confident his visa will come together in time.

“It doesn’t look like that’s happening,” he said.

Tennent was deported on June 12, 2017, over an alleged breach of visa conditions.

Authorities claim Tennent was deported due to “blatant abuse” of his special exemption/religious worker visa after engaging in “sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.

Tennent was deported after some landowners lodged a complaint regarding his involvement in such “sensitive landowner issues”.

‘Just doing his job’
It is believed the complaint comes due to Tennent’s involvement in remedying a special agricultural business lease regarding Malaysian multinational Rimbunan Hijau’s Sigite Mukus oil palm project in West Pomio.

Both Tennent and Archbishop Francesco Panfilo hold firm to the belief Tennent is “just doing his job”, however.

Returning to Papua New Guinea in the coming week will mark a seven week absence from his duties as the administrator for the Archdiocese of Rabaul.

Tennent told Asia Pacific Report the actions of immigration and the acting chief migration officer therefore have put not only himself, but Archbishop Francesco Panfilo under undue stress as the Archdiocese continues to settle disputes.

“The Archbishop is getting very stressed out. He’s had to put off a very much-needed holiday at 75 until I get back.”

“It’s just a matter of picking up the pieces,” Tennent said of negotiations with Rimbunan Hijau.

Tennent’s deportation has also “knocked off track” the giving back of 160 hectares of land to four local communities which was purchased illegally.

‘It needs to be sorted out’
The case was due to be heard in court on July 11, but that never happened due to Tennent’s absence.

“It needs to be sorted out in court and this has had adverse effects on the Kokopo community,” he said.

Despite criticisms he should be suing immigration for damages, Tennent is just looking forward to returning to work.

“The Archbishop and I have decided we’re not in to that. We just want to get back, carry on with the job.”

But Tennent will be making submissions to the Ombudsman, Constitutional Law Reform Commission and immigration calling for a change in the deportation process.

“I don’t want this sort of thing to happen again. If you’ve got a concern about somebody, you go to them firstly and you let them respond. That was not done at all.

“I think we’ve got a moral obligation to try and address that.”

Tennent said he would like to see potential deportees given fair notice around the reason for their deportation and ensure associated evidence is provided to them so they are allowed to respond to the allegations.

He would also like to see careful and thorough investigation carried out by immigration before people are deported and says reasonable time needs to be given for them to sort out their affairs.

“The number of deportations are not large in PNG, so there’s no excuse for not getting them right.”

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