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PNG: PM's appeal calms troops

PNG: PM's appeal calms troops
23 March 2001

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PORT MORESBY (Pasifik Nius): Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's
passionate plea to Papua New Guinea soldiers through a letter yesterday
appeared to have been just the tonic needed to calm down tempers in the
rank and file, the National reports.

"His letter to us is magic, it is working," said one military insider
last night. "The letter from the Prime Minister came to us like an olive
branch, it has touched many of us," said the soldier.

He was referring to the following lines Sir Mekere wrote: "Gentlemen,
together we have a duty to protect and preserve the integrity of our
country, not only for the present generation, but also for our children
and grandchildren.

"I appeal to you as Papua New Guineans to help me in this enormous task.
It is only together that we can face the many challenges we face with
some degree of confidence and hope of success.

"God be with you, and may He work through us to do what is right for our
country," Sir Mekere said in conclusion.

In the preceding lines, Sir Mekere apologised to the soldiers for any
misunderstanding that he was to attend the gathering at the Murray
Barracks rugby oval on Tuesday. He blamed radio broadcasts for the wrong

The rest of the contents of his letter to the soldiers reads as follows:

"I write to you to convey directly two very important Government
decisions regarding the Defence Force and the current situation.

"Cabinet at its meeting No. 11/2001 on Monday, 19 March confirmed the
decision of the Prime Minister not to implement the recommendations of
the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group Report.

"Cabinet at its special meeting No 11/2001 on Monday, 19 March confirmed
that an unconditional amnesty has been granted to all soldiers who are
affected or involved in the current situation. A copy of my press
release of today's date on this subject confirms this.

"I do apologise for any misunderstanding that I would attend the parade
at Murray Barracks today.

That misunderstanding was directly created by the National Broadcasting
Corporation. The statements broadcast by NBC were not authorised by me
or by my office.

"I was never to attend. The Minister for Defence has the fully authority
of my Cabinet and Government to meet you, negotiate and report back to

"I feel that the Government has given you the most important assurances
that you need for you to put this incident behind us by normalising the

"I look forward to meeting your leaders after Minister Genia has
delivered to me your petition. My meeting with your leaders will provide
an opportunity for you to raise any other issues or grievances that you
may still have. If necessary, the Minister and I well then take those
issues to Cabinet," said the Prime Minister in his letter to the troops.

In another letter to the acting commander of the PNG Defence Force,
Brigadier-General Carl Marlpo, Sir Mekere instructed him to uphold the
Cabinet decisions, "observe them and relay them clearly and widely to
officers and the rank and file of the Defence Force."

"The Government has done its part. It is now up to you and your officers
to do your part," Sir Mekere told Brig Gen Marlpo.

For most part of yesterday, the commanding officers of each unit had
separate meetings with their men and conveyed Sir Mekere's plea to the
rank and file.



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