Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Border concerns as new road gets ready to open

Residents of Vanimo in Papua New Guinea have protested against the opening of a new cross-border road linking their township with the capital of Indonesia's Papua province, Jayapura. According to the Port Moresby Post-Courier, the demonstrators are concerned that PNG does not seem prepared and ready to handle the influx of visitors passing through the border post at Wutung onto the PNG side.

"The opening of the highway could cause far more serious problems for PNG as a new wave of illegal immigrants could be passing through the border post and then disappearing into PNG like others have done in the past. PNG needs to provide the infrastructure and staff to secure the border post and provide quarantine, immigration, customs, police, Defence Force, taxation and other services needed to ensure strict compliance with PNG laws by anyone wishing to enter PNG," the newspaper commented.

"The government should not rush into any opening ceremony until all required services and manpower are ready to administer movements across the common border. It should also ensure the people of West Sepik, the churches, women's groups and the youths clearly understand the full implications of opening up their border town to visitors from the Indonesian side. The opening of links between the two countries needs to be carefully done to ensure the common border does not become a transit point for transnational criminal activities such as human smuggling, drugs and guns trafficking, prostitution and importation of illegal products into PNG," it said.

The Vanimo protesters have delivered a petition regarding their concerns to their provincial governor, Carlos Yuni, to give to the prime minister.

Across the border, special petrol stations are being built for PNG visitors to prevent them from purchasing diesel oil and gasoline subsidised by the Indonesian national government. But Papua provincial governor Barnabas Suebu expects a surge of PNG visitors, particularly from Vanimo, because Jayapura's prices are cheaper. "There are benefits to be had by both sides. They get cheaper prices and we will be able to sell our commodities," he said.

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