31 Mar 2005

PNG rally against Australia's treatment of PM Somare

3:29 pm on 31 March 2005

Hundreds of protesters have marched on the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea demanding an apology and compensation over an alleged security insult.

The PNG prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, was asked by security staff at Brisbane Airport to remove his shoes after a metal detector went off during a routine check late last week.

He labelled his treatment an insult to leadership in the Pacific, and the Australian High commissioner to Port Moresby, Mike Potts, was summoned.

PNG says it expects an apology by tomorrow; Australia insists there won't be one.

A senior PNG Foreign Affairs official says Sir Michael has been through such checks before but it's the first time he's been asked to remove his shoes.

The official says the requirement is ridiculous and not the sort of thing that would be expected of the US president, for example.

The official also says the PNG gives Australian protocol officials advance notice of Sir Michael's visits and security should be waived.

But the spokesman for Australia's Transport Minister, John Anderson, says anyone other than the Queen who arrives on a commercial flight must go through security.

Sir Michael could have had a private screening, he says, but it wasn't requested.