Former PNGDF Commander says Australian troop deployment must be debated in parliament

singirok
Retired Maj Gen Jerry Singirok

The  global trade war between China and Western powers  that has reached new heights in the Pacific and  in particular in Papua New Guinea.  As  the  Government of Peter O’Neill courts China on the one side of the bargaining table receiving,  aid and other benefits,  PNG’s traditional military partner, Australia is growing anxious.

Australian media  has reported that  their government is planning to establish a military base on  Manus to counter the growing Chinese influence in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

The PNG Government has been largely silent since Australia’s announcement.  Last night, when I contacted the  Defence Minister, Solan Mirisim,  he said the  Papua New Guinea has been in negotiations with Australia for “a military base and a training facility on Manus.”

The plans by Australian has brought about concerns.

Former PNG Defence Force  Commander, Major General Jerry Singirok, says any decision by the Australians to place troops in Papua New Guinea must have wide consultation as well as debate in parliament.

So far there has been none.

“Australia must be mindful that Papua New Guinea is a  sovereign nation. There has to be wide public consultation as well as debate in parliament because this is a strategic decision.

“Australia has neglected this region for so long.  This issue  has to be approached with diplomacy.”

Australia’s choice of Manus is  of strategic military importance.  The maritime  corridor   between Guam to the north and Manus to the south  was used by the Japanese in World War Two to reach the Pacific.

A possible Australian presence  in Manus means they get to police the northern region.   The move places Papua New Guinea  in the center of a global power struggle between the US and its allies and China.

For Papua New Guinea,  things are a bit complicated.  How does the government call China a threat  and receive aid and development loans?  And how does it support Australia’s military ambitions and still view China as a friend.

Another Former PNGDF Commander,  feels  Australia  has to find a middle ground to deal with the trade war instead of placing military personnel in Papua New Guinea.

“China is not a threat,” says  retired Commodore Peter Ilau, who  also served as ambassador to Indonesia.  “We have to learn to work with China. We cannot respond with a show of military force.”

Both former commanders agree that the threat of being smothered or over run  by a behemoth  of an economic and military power are real.

China’s economic influence in Papua New Guinea extends to nearly all sectors.

In the 13 year period between 2005 and 2018, China has spent over close to  12 billion kina in investments and aid in Papua New Guinea.  That is 3 billion kina short of Papua New Guinea’s Annual budget of 15 billion.

Chinese money  has been spent of monumental projects  like buildings, transport infrastructure   and energy projects in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

But what concerns many in Papua New Guinea is  debt to China driven by loans and obligations and the possible take over of state assets by  a foreign power.

 

 

 

One thought on “Former PNGDF Commander says Australian troop deployment must be debated in parliament

  1. “Australia has neglected this region for so long.”, well Ask The Good General IF he knows the value of AID given by China and by Australia in the last 10 years, AND ask him if he knows how many loans Australia has given to PNG with the same Conditions as imposed by China on its LOANS.

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