O'Neill government lacked evidence to deport New Zealander

29/12/2011 15:50


The O’Neill government today admitted that it did not have evidence to support its deportation of New Zealander and close Somare confidant Graham Osborne from Papua New Guinea.

Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Jamie Maxtone-Graham told PNG commercial radio station PNGFM Ltd that Mr Osborne was deported because of his “involvement” in the current political stalemate, however he admitted the government lacked evidence to substantiate its claims and added that “investigations (to prove the allegations) can start after the deportation”.

He also said foreigners like Mr Osborne would also be asked to leave the country, in a warning to expatriates who are close associates of the Somare government.

In a letter dated December 22, 2011 bearing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Trade and Immigration letterhead and addressed to Mr Osborne, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs Trade and Immigration said he used his powers under the PNG Migration Act to cancel the New Zealander’s entry permit.

“Under powers vested in me under section 6 (cancellation of entry permit), I wish to inform you that I cancelled your working resident-resident long-term entry permit on Wednesday 21 December 2011. Consistent with the provisions of the Migration Act, section 7 (unlawful presence in the country) you are to remove yourself voluntarily from Papua New Guinea by Friday 23 December, 2011. In the event you do not leave voluntarily by Friday 23 December 2011, I will undertake your removal under powers conferred upon me under section 12 (removal orders) and Section 13 (power to detain and power to remove persons from the country) of the Migration Act,” Mr Maxtone-Graham wrote.

A copy of the orders dated 21 December 2011 cancelling Mr Osborne’s entry permit was attached to the letter. Also included was a signed and sealed search warrant dated December 26, 2011 addressed to the police transnational crime unit for them to search his Paga Hill residence for pornographic material as well as marijuana.

According to local newspaper Post-Courier police were not able to find evidence of contraband but nevertheless went ahead and executed his deportation with the assistance of PNG immigration officers.

Under the PNG Migration Act any cancellation of a foreigner’s entry permit by the minister will require the appointment of a review committee comprising three ministers. The three ministers will then review the submission and make recommendations, to either confirm the cancellation or revoke it, based on the evidence and documentation submitted by the minister responsible. It is not known if Mr Maxtone-Graham undertook that process as his correspondence with Mr Osborne did not make any reference to the deliberations of a ministerial review committee.

PNG commercial radio station PNGFM Ltd has reported that Mr Osborne, who is now based in Cairns, Australia plans to appeal his deportation as he was not given seven-days notice as stipulated under the PNG Migration Act.

The deportation is the latest twist in the political saga which has gripped PNG since the December 12, 2011 Supreme Court ruling which reinstated Sir Michael. Papua New Guineans have taken to social media to express their anger with some expressing concern that the deportation had subtle hints of “Mugabe-like” (in reference to Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe) policies while others supported it and urged the O’Neill government to start with Malaysian-owned logging companies.