PNG Immigration officials defy court order to send Osbourne back to Australia

16/01/2012 22:22


Mr Osborne sent back to Australia. Picture courtesy of Papua New Guinea Blogs

Papua New Guinea immigration officials today re-deported businessman Graham Osborne upon his return to Port Moresby, blatantly defying a court order that guaranteed his entry into PNG.

The New Zealand businessman was deported last December in controversial circumstances, with the then PNG acting Foreign Minister Jamie Maxtone-Graham admitting the O’Neill government lacked evidence to back its claims that Mr Osborne was meddling in PNG politics.

However, Mr Osborne successfully appealed his deportation in the PNG National Court and was granted a judicial review. His lawyers also obtained court orders, which warned PNG Immigration Authority and the PNG Foreign Affairs Department, and that any attempts to bar him from returning to PNG would amount to contempt of court.

However the court orders did not stop PNG immigration officials from confiscating Mr Osbourne’s passport and putting him back on a plane to Australia this afternoon. His lawyers are likely to return to court to get it to summon the superiors of the PNG Immigration Authority to explain their actions or face imprisonment for contempt. It is likely the officials were acting on the orders of the O’Neill government, which has threatened to deport more foreigners if they were found to be “involved in PNG politics”. Among the orders granted by the court were:

  • The deputy and acting chief migration officer, Joseph Nobetau, and their agents allow Graham Leslie Osborne to return to PNG forthwith by according full force and effect to his PNG entry permit;
  • Joseph Nobetau to present himself personally at the Jacksons International Airport on 16 January 2012 to personally direct, supervise and control the conduct of his agents or officers in compliance with the first order;
  • The orders shall be applicable to the chief migration officer Mataio Rabura if he resumed office before the arrival of the applicant (Mr Osborne) and;
  • Any attempts to frustrate the effect of the orders or to delay its implementation shall amount to contempt of court.

The decision by PNG immigration officials to ignore the court order will add to growing concerns by the PNG business community, who had warned that Mr Osborne’s deportation last December sent the wrong message to investors.

Sir Arnold Amet, the attorney general in the government of Supreme Court-reinstated Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, condemned the deportation last December saying the businessman was targeted because he was a friend of the Somare family.

Parliament-elected PM Peter O’Neill backed Mr Maxtone-Graham’s decision to deport Mr Osborne and said it was over an allegation that the New Zealander tried to illegally access public monies to fund political activities. But Mr Maxtone-Graham’s December 22, 2011 letter to Mr Osborne, which advised of the cancellation of his PNG entry permit, did not state whether it was over the above allegation or connected to a police search for contraband at his Port Moresby residence.