19 May 2005

Researcher says corrupt elite in PNG profits from ECP suspension

4:09 pm on 19 May 2005

An Australian foreign policy researcher says the demise of part of a multi-million dollar Australian aid package to Papua New Guinea represents a victory for a corrupt elite group in PNG.

The Enhanced Cooperation Programme between PNG and Australia is under a cloud following a court decision in PNG that immunity from prosecution granted to Australians is unconstitutional.

Australia has temporarily withdrawn all its 161 police from PNG because of the ruling, and both sides are in talks aimed at a resumption.

Amid the fallout, accusations have flown about why and how the ruling came about, with one suggestion that it was "pay back" for a recent security row between the countries.

The foreign policy research director at the Centre for Independent Studies in Australia, Susan Windybank, says it is futile to apportion blame for the partial suspension of the ECP.

"I think this has been a victory for the small but very powerful group of elites in PNG who don't want change, who are benefitting from the status quo and who cry about PNG sovereignty at the first chance whenever ECP officials and their PNG counterparts get close to challenging some of their ill-gotten gains and corrupt practices."

Susan Windybank.