IAN LLOYD NEUBAUER
| Al Jazeera | Edited extract
SYDNEY - The Indian high commission in Papua New Guinea has denied claims by PNG police commissioner David Manning that it helped unauthorised passengers, including four who were infected with Covid-19, to arrive in Port Moresby.
The denial came after Mr Manning last week banned all flights from India, accusing the Indian government of deliberately participating in deception that compromised PNG’s safety and security.
He said the Indian government had undermined the trust of a friendly nation by allowing some passengers to board the aircraft without a negative Covid test.
“This failure has meant that the flight carried four individuals into PNG who are infected with Covid,” he said.
In addition, Mr Manning, who is also controller of PNG’s Covid response, banned Indonesia’s Garuda Airlines and Hong Kong charter company, CapaJet, from using PNG airspace “until further notice”.
“India must respect PNG as a sovereign nation, and not participate in actions involving unscrupulous people, to violate our laws and undermine public health and safety measures,” Mr Manning said.
The Indian high commission denied the allegations.
“All foreign national passengers on board the aircraft destined for Port Moresby held valid SOE [state of emergency] approvals and Covid PCR test and vaccination certificates,” the mission told Al Jazeera.
“Passengers were only given tickets once they had provided the SOE approval, in line with the prescribed guidelines set out by the controller.”
It also provided documents, including a flight manifest that listed the 84 passengers as well as certificates issued by the PNG government that approved entry for all 84 passengers.
Adam Vai Delaney, a former PNG diplomat now a doctoral students at the Australian National University in Canberra, described Manning’s statement as a diplomatic blunder.
“It is not something you flippantly do – publicly accuse countries, India and Indonesia, that have been very good partners to PNG, of acting deceptively.
“It needs to be addressed quite urgently,” Mr Delaney said.
“It shows that Manning is under lots of stress.
“The national Covid-19 controller can’t do its job because of critical shortages of manpower and finances.
“As a result, a health problem has become a diplomatic issue when it shouldn’t have.”
CapaJet – which chartered the Garuda Airlines flight – also denied Mr Manning’s allegations.
Its operations director Jay Wan said he was disappointed, especially since CapaJet helped repatriate several PNG diplomats free of charge on that same flight.