PNG buys Indonesian electricity

PEOPLE living on the border with Indonesia will be allowed access to that country’s excess hydro-power services, with PNG Power buying electricity for its grid from there too.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato said the arrangement would also involve Indonesia’s funding of “an ambitious paved highway from Merauke on its side of the border in the south, to Wewak in East Sepik”.
The deal emerged after Prime Minister Peter O’Neill led a delegation to Jakarta last month for talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on building the PNG economy and associated diplomatic initiatives.
The visit was part of initiatives aimed at defusing the stand-off over West Papua, raising hopes of a breakthrough in one of the most intractable rows in the Asia-Pacific region.
Pato said: “The Indonesian president will adopt a softer approach to West Papuan issues, allowing them greater autonomy.”
Power for PNG. Getty Images
He said Indonesian representatives would participate in the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture hosted by PNG next year.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told The Australian newspaper that he hoped to open up dialogue with Indonesia.
“West Papua has been a sticky issue for PNG and the western Pacific for quite some time,” he said. 
“Our role is to open up discussion.
“We feel the government of Indonesia has a genuine desire to ensure the issues relating to West Papua are managed in a mutually beneficial manner and, for the first time in our bilateral discussions, we were able to discuss this openly with the Indonesian government.”
O’Neill said he was convinced that the Indonesian president now wished “to withdraw the military presence from West Papua, and to allow for more autonomy through economic empowerment of the people”.
“We feel this is a good opening for us to engage with the Indonesian government so we can participate in the improvement of the lives of Melanesian people there, and of our own people along the border,” he said.
“Our officials are now engaged meaningfully in establishing the cooperation we agreed.”
The two leaders signed 11 memoranda of understanding during O’Neill’s visit, after which Pato and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa began to chart an implementation course.
They also agreed on a mutual extradition treaty, which may result in  Indonesian businessman and fugitive Joko Chandra who obtained PNG citizenship under a process that is being challenged legally, returns to face charges. 
Chandra is wanted in Indonesia for fraud related charges.

The National/Pacific News Flash
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