The PNG diplomat in Honiara should be reprimanded

08/05/2012 13:38

The PNG High Commissioner to Solomon Islands

Brian Yombon-Copio


Sometimes it pays not to comment at all, especially if you are a diplomat and represent “two governments” whose own legitimacies as governments are before a court of law.

Consequently the recent statements by the PNG High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Brian Yombon-Copio, is somewhat mischievous and smacks of bias towards the O’Neill government despite his assertions that he is apolitical.

His claim that PNG was not experiencing a constitutional crisis, in his bid to refute the concerns of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is shallow and raises a lot of questions about his ability and that of the PNG High Commission in Honiara to be kept in the loop on issues back home.

Does he have staff at post who can pick up the phone to get the latest from Port Moresby? Does the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have daily press summaries which are distributed by email to all PNG missions globally? Or does his erroneous statement confirm the state of affairs (on the lack of capacity and post support staff) within DFAT-run embassies and high commissions?

His assertions that there were no human rights abuses during the political crisis are an outright lie and he should be reprimanded by DFAT Acting Secretary Lucy Bogari. Events in PNG connected to the crisis attracted global headlines and it is amazing PNG’s top diplomat in Honiara missed it.

If he had been reading the online editions of the PNG Post-Courier, The National, ABC or even PNG Perspective he would have come across stories on the bashing of policemen by colleagues aligned to the O’Neill government, the assaulting of local journalists and even moves by the same regime to censor social media. Aren’t these reports examples of human rights abuse?

So sorry Mr Yombon-Copio but the concerns highlighted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is shared by many Papua New Guineans because they saw it and felt its effects.  And while it could be true that Mr Yombon-Copio has done “extensive research on the role of international organizations during his studies on international relations”, it is surprising that he could not see the link between the reports and the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s definition of a human rights abuse.

The other issue is jurisdiction and whether the PNG diplomat in Honiara has the standing to respond to comments by the head of a UN agency. Shouldn't that be within the ambit of the DFAT Secretary or the PNG Ambassador to the UN? It is somewhat strange that Ms Bogari gave that responsibility to the Honiara head of mission. But then with the PNG general election just around the corner and a new government not far away maybe Mr Yombon-Copio has his eyes on the top job – and the return of an O’Neill-led coalition government in August could open the door for him.