Namah blasts PNG government over ‘serious’ Indonesian border issues

The Indonesian border post at Wutung, PNG
The Indonesian border post at Wutung, PNG . . . angry protest by Port Moresby's parliamentary chair of Defence. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

An angry tirade on Papua New Guinea and Indonesia border issues in the PNG Parliament yesterday is likely to ignite an international uproar over the alleged behaviour of government officials.

During yesterday’s session, Vanimo-Green MP and former soldier Belden Namah, asked why border liaison meetings were always held in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

He also called on the government to allow for this Indonesia-PNG Border Treaty — which PNG has not ratified — to be withheld so serious issues pertaining to the border arrangements between the two countries would be addressed.

Namah, who is the parliamentary chair for Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, claimed that Indonesian government officials were “getting our officers drunk, giving them women and then come the meeting — they are just sitting there saying, ‘Yes sir, yes sir’!”

“Every time a border liaison meeting is held we are taking our people to Jakarta.

“When they go to Jakarta, they go and drink Bintang beer and get into illegal activities and they don’t attend border liaison meetings representing our country,” Namah claimed.

He said PNG soldiers were no longer patrolling the PNG border and that Indonesians were constantly breaching the border and crossing into PNG.

‘Serious security issue’
“This is a serious national issue, serious security issue that we need to address. We need to carefully look at these issues.”

Namah’s angry outburst followed a move by the Foreign Affairs Minister Justin Tkatchenko to introduce the ratification of the Border Treaty agreement between PNG and Indonesia.

“We must make hard decisions, we are a sovereign nation. We cannot go on border liaison all the time in Jakarta,” Namah said.

“There are a lot of issues yet to be addressed and we must not rush the ratification of these border arrangements.

PNG's Defence parliamentary chair Belden Namah
PNG’s Defence parliamentary committee chair Belden Namah . . . “Indonesians have already crossed into our side — we have turned a blind eye.” Image: PNG Post-Courier

“We as a country have not been seriously looking at the border demarcation, whether it is the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs or Provincial Affairs.

“When you go to the border, Indonesians have already crossed into our side and they are already engaged in activities on our side of the border — we have turned a blind eye.

‘Do we know what’s happening?’
“Do we know what is happening on the border?”

More than 12,000 citizens from West Sepik — especially people from Namah’s electorate — had crossed over to Indonesia because “on our side, we, as a national government” were not providing basic services to Papua New Guineans.

“I want to have a look at this treaty before Parliament can pass it and I am arguing now as the chairman for Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I want to have a look at it before it is signed,” Namah said.

“I want to raise the issues of our land, why has Indonesia crossed into the side of our border?”

Namah said that perhaps PNG needed needed to close the Batas [trade] centre in Wutung and the Indonesians moved back to their side.

“Maybe we should build a naval base at the mouth of River Torassi in Western Province and ask the Indonesians to dismantle their naval base on their side,” he said.

“I am proposing now that every border liaison be held outside of Indonesia and PNG, somewhere neutral so we can raise these issues.

Important sovereignty issues
“These are important sovereignty issues.

“I propose that this particular treaty be withheld to allow my committee, the parliamentary committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade to review it before we actually sign it.”

According to Prime Minister James Marape, the border treaty agreement was signed in 2013 and ratified by NEC in 2015.

Since then, there had been no border talks.

Gorethy Kenneth is a PNG Post-Courier senior journalist. Republished with permission.

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