PNG hits out at India over broken agreement and unauthorised arrivals

Papua New Guinea is seeking answers from India and Indonesia after a Garuda flight landed in Port Moresby with unauthorised passengers, including four infected with Covid-19.

PNG's National Pandemic Response Controller and Police Commissioner, David Manning, alleges India's High Commission in Port Moresby deliberately participated in a deception that resulted in the unauthorised arrivals.

Manning said India broke an agreement on how many passengers were approved for the repatriation flight.

According to him, the proposed repatriation flight from India had been rejected four times due to the risk of Covid-infected arrivals from India

It was only approved after set measures had been agreed with representatives of the Indian High Commission.

"First, the agreement on the number of approved passengers was broken when the Indian Government and flight operators allowed 81 passengers onto the aircraft intending to disembark in Papua New Guinea," Manning explained.

"While some of these passengers were Papua New Guinea citizens, and the remainder had current and valid visas, the point is that the Indian Government broke our agreement by allowing so many to travel."

Manning said that as a consequence "of this deliberate show of disrespect against the people and Government of Papua New Guinea", there was now an indefinite ban on any further repatriation flights from India. Furthermore, airlines CapaJet and Garuda Indonesia are now prevented from entering PNG airspace until further notice.

"I have requested Papua New Guinea's Department of Foreign Affairs to deal with the Indian High Commission through appropriate diplomatic channels, while the charter company and the airline, as well as any middle-men, will now face the consequences for their actions," Manning said.

"All that the High Commission of India has achieved through this action is to undermine the trust of a friendly nation. India must respect Papua New Guinea as a sovereign nation, and not participate in actions involving unscrupulous people, to violate our laws and undermine public health and safety measures."

Manning said PNG will also request an explanation from Indonesia's government over its involvement in the scandal, including the boarding of Indonesian passengers onto the aircraft, and the actions of Garuda as a state-owned airline.