Australian Aid Agencies in PNG On Alert
Thursday, 15th December 2011 at 12:02 pm
Australian aid agencies working in Papua New Guinea are on high alert as the country’s political turmoil drags on.
Child Fund Australia, a Not for Profit organisation that works directly with community leaders and families in PNG supporting children’s welfare, says its staff in Port Morsby are on high alert and are ready to suspend their work if there is any trouble on the streets.
ChildFund Australia CEO, Nigel Spence says while no programs have been suspended so far, non essential travel to to the outer villages where they work has been suspended.
Spence says there are 20 staff, all PNG nationals, working in their head office. ChildFund Australia has been working in PNG for 15 years in remote areas of the central and gulf regions in the areas of health, education, water and child protection.
“Our staff are somewhat confused and a little bemused at the political goings on but are trying to remain focused on their work”, he said.
“At the first sign of any street violence or disturbances in the villages we will shutting up shop and sending our people home.
The political stalemate has seen neither Prime Minister elect Peter O'Neill or Sir Michael Somare prepared to back down and concede that the other is in charge.
MPs loyal to O'Neill are occupying parliament and have authorised an appeal against the five-man Supreme Court decision that reinstated Sir Michael.
The turmoil has created much anxiety and confusion among the general population.
Aid agency Oxfam says it is keeping an eye on the political situation but it has so far not affected their work in the region.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a travel warning urging a ‘high degree of caution for all Australians in PNG.