Papua New Guinea accuses India of deception, bans flights

Published August 25, 2021
A repatriation charter flight from India arrived in PNG via Indonesia on Tuesday with 111 people on board, 30 more than the original number approved. — Reuters/File
A repatriation charter flight from India arrived in PNG via Indonesia on Tuesday with 111 people on board, 30 more than the original number approved. — Reuters/File

PORT MORESBY: Papua New Guinea banned flights from India indefinitely on Tuesday and accused the country’s diplomats of “deception” over apparent breaches to Covid-19 travel rules.

The Melanesian nation’s top Covid-19 official said that in an act of “deliberate deception” India’s High Commission helped dozens of unauthorised travellers — some Covid-positive — to arrive in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

A repatriation charter flight from India arrived in PNG via Indonesia on Tuesday with 111 people on board, 30 more than the original number approved.

The flight had been the subject of intense negotiations between officials in the two countries and was rejected four times by PNG over virus fears before an agreement was reached to allow 81 passengers to enter.

A PNG official said “India’s High Commission in Port Moresby deliberately participated in the deception” to bring more than that number in.

“As a consequence of this deliberate show of disrespect against the people and government of Papua New Guinea, there is now an indefinite ban on any further repatriation flights from India,” he said.

Indian government officials in Port Moresby and New Delhi did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Airline operators CapaJet and Garuda Indonesia were also banned from entering Papua New Guinea’s airspace “until further notice”, he added.

The travellers were nationals of PNG, India, and Indonesia, with four testing positive for Covid-19.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021

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