Remarks With Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare
Secretary of State
PRIME MINISTER SOMARE: Madam Secretary of State, I would just like to say that we’ve made a wonderful dialogue, really, one-to-one and with the ministers. And we are really honored that, Secretary of State, you were able to give time amidst a very busy schedule of yours to visit our country. We view this as a reaffirmation of the importance which the United States Government attaches to our relationship with Papua New Guinea, your country. Papua New Guinea will continue to be a constructive partner in international efforts to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and production and address climate change, which is one of our very important agendas in our development, and gender balance and sustainable development and (inaudible) development and climate change, and we want to be able to sustain the developments that are going on.
On the bilateral front, Madam Secretary, we appreciate the increasing United States trade with us and investment interest in Papua New Guinea. I talked to you not long ago, a few months ago, we -- after signing the agreement on the LNG, we had (inaudible). We commend you and your government to make the commitment of (inaudible) to invest in a big way in Papua New Guinea. U.S. EX-IM bank funded our first energy program in our country with three billion U.S. dollars alone and, of course, (inaudible) help funding the oil refinery in Port Moresby, help with the development of our oil palm industry in West New Britain, in Milne Bay, in Morobe and other parts of Papua New Guinea. And your commercial entities have been also very great. It really has been a great help.
And we are grateful for all of your assistance provided to our civil society groups and the various programs in Papua New Guinea that seek to improve the welfare of our people. We welcome the offers by your government to assist Papua New Guinea specifically in the areas of energy sector and our energy governance and capacity initiative. And we are looking forward to the opportunity for officials to discuss further details on the (inaudible), and I’m sure better coordination with our development partners.
And all in all, as I said, Madam, we continue to assist -- continue – PNG will continue to assist the United States identify and repatriate the remains of the United States from World War II. As you mentioned, we have a 60 year relationship, and the Second World War was a time when Papua New Guinean soldiers, including our (inaudible), rubbed shoulder to shoulder in our soil here and in our waterfronts on the north in Milne Bay. And the United States has been our friend ever since. Immediately after independence, we established diplomatic relations with you. Even prior to independence, when I became chief minister, the United States already was the first one with Australia to establish a relationship here.
In the area of climate change, Madam, I am thankful that the United States Government made a commitment of 21 million dollars to assist the (inaudible) for mitigation purposes. And we are also glad that, with our (inaudible) program, we will be also looking forward to a (inaudible) meeting to reach some understanding on the efforts that we are taking on climate change.
We have always enjoyed a friendly and mutual relationship. When the President was here I had a visit. We would have hoped that you would have spent a day visiting one of our towns outside to really get a feeling of Papua New Guinea, that this is just a – cosmopolitan feeling, but if you had gone out -- outside Port Moresby, you will find that you are really (inaudible) the villages and see the lifestyle of our people, how we live.
We want to thank you once again for honoring us, and you made a commitment that you will return before the year falls, and you have done it. (Laughter.) Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am so pleased to be here, Prime Minister. I mean, I knew that the distance between Washington and Port Moresby was long, but I didn’t know it would take from January until November for me to get here. (Laughter.)
But I appreciate your kindness and you were so understanding when I called you from Hawaii after the terrible earthquake in Haiti, and I’ve been looking forward to getting here. And I am so pleased that I finally could be, although I admit I am a little bit envious of my husband because he got to spend more time and see more of your beautiful country when he came on behalf of the work that his foundation is doing on HIV/AIDS here.
But I’m here on behalf of President Obama and our Administration to reaffirm our commitment to our partnership and friendship, which as you say, goes back in the tradition of deep engagement here in the Pacific. And it is important for us to reaffirm the trusted partnership that began during World War II. And so this visit is both a privilege personally, but also a priority for my tenure as Secretary of State.
I greatly appreciate the productive conversations that we had because we are committed to the Pacific Island nations and to the Asia-Pacific region in general. And we do a lot of work already between the United States and Papua New Guinea. We work to protect forests and fish stocks. We fight the spread of HIV. We cooperate between our militaries and in peacekeeping operations. Our navies’ Pacific Partnership helps people across the region. We send students back and forth, including Fulbright scholars and Humphrey fellows and so many others.
These are wide-ranging and effective partnerships, and we will soon be breaking ground on a new embassy that will symbolize the future. We’ve had a very productive relationship in the past, but we’re looking to the future, and that new embassy will demonstrate that, because our challenge is to expand our partnership into the 21st century. Thanks to your abundant natural resources, Papua New Guinea has the opportunity not only to be more developed and provide more benefits for your people, but to become a strong regional leader and a model for reducing poverty and spurring development.
But as you and I discussed, in order to achieve that, there will have to be a commitment to good governance and accountability and transparency, and you’re taking steps to plan to do just that. The planning for a sovereign wealth fund is a very important commitment. And the United States stands ready to help translate your country’s natural resources into widespread prosperity. As you said, Prime Minister, last year, the Export-Import Bank approved the largest financing transaction in its history to help develop Papua New Guinea’s gas reserves. And the State Department’s Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative is designed to help nation’s like this to handle the changes you are likely to see.
There is a phrase, “resource curse.” Countries with abundant natural resources like oil and gas or gold or minerals, if they’re not handled right, can actually end up making a country poorer instead of richer. I will not name names, but there are countries in the world that started with the same hopes as Papua New Guinea with all of the excitement that I know is in this country because of the resources that were discovered, but they weren’t handled right. So 20, 30, 40 years later, people have actually gotten poorer. And I know that will not happen here because the people and the government of this country will do it in the right way.
We want to provide technical training for your scientists and engineers. We would like to provide job training so that it will be the residents of your country who take the jobs that are created. We want to help you write and implement the institutions and regulations that will make it possible to manage these new revenues wisely. Our Departments of Interior and Treasury are already working with the respective cabinet ministries here to work to see how the United States can be of help.
So I thank the prime minister for his leadership of these efforts and in laying the groundwork for Papua New Guinea’s future as an energy producer. But as we expand the ranks of energy producers, we also need to respond to climate change. Papua New Guinea represents both the promise and the peril – more energy resources, but more threat from climate change. And what you are doing in managing your tropical forests and your natural resources responsibly will be very important. We will be working in the Congress to appropriate $21 million to help Pacific Island nations, including yours.
So I want to thank you again for what you’re doing on the energy, economic, climate change, resource sets of issues, and I also want to say how much I enjoyed meeting a number of women leaders from all walks of life here in the country – law, medicine, agriculture, the arts, so much else. And it will be important to develop the resources that half the population represents. That’s a natural resource as well, one that is just as valuable as oil, gas, or gold in helping to create a stronger and brighter future for your country.
So thank you so much, Prime Minister, for taking time out this evening to spend with me. It’s a real honor. I mean, you have a well-deserved reputation as someone who has led your country in independence and beyond, and I know that your legacy of leaving such a strong base of support for the development of your country will be long, long remembered. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll take two questions each, two from the local media and two from our international visitors. I call on Jonathan Tannos from Post-Courier.
QUESTION: Good evening, Secretary of State. I’m Jonathan Tannos from the Post-Courier. My question basically is in relation to climate change. In your opinion or that of the United States, how soon can the international leaders who climate change finalize or approve policies that can be adopted by countries like Papua New Guinea to legislation, which should be in adherence to the internationally approved framework? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, that’s an excellent question. And I hope that the process will begin in earnest at the meeting in Cancun that starts later this month. The prime minister and I discussed the REDD initiative regarding deforestation, and the prime minister and your government has been an international leader in pushing that issue. And we hope that we’ll come out of the meeting in Cancun with some very specific recommendations and commitments.
We also hope that there will be a continuing effort to build on what came out of Copenhagen, because there has to be a commitment by both developed and developing countries for transparency, for financial obligations, for targets. All of that has to go together if we’re to be successful. So I hope that, in answer to your question, it starts at the end of this month.
MODERATOR: Okay. I’d like to ask Arshad Mohamed from Reuters.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, could you offer any more – sorry. Secretary Clinton, could you offer any more details on what you think the United States can do to try to help Papua New Guinea avoid the resource curse that you described and that has afflicted other countries?
And Prime Minister, could you tell us what more your government can do to try to reduce the very high rates of violence against women in your country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, there are a number of specific recommendations that we have ready to make or have already shared with the government. Our ambassador is working on this. We started an initiative in the last year called the Energy, Governance, and Capacity Initiative. There was a meeting in Washington. The coordinator of that initiative, David Goldwyn, came to Papua New Guinea to discuss how to build institutional capacity and how to govern the revenue that is produced by natural resource extraction. And we’re already working with the various government departments here to implement those recommendations.
In just last October, this last month, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted specialized training that provides PNG’s Department of Petroleum and Energy staff with the technical capabilities to augment its understanding of PNG’s oil and gas resource potential, to improve the evaluation of data and analysis provided to it by international energy companies, so that the government can have some source to check what they’re told by the energy companies.
Next month in December, the Department of Interior will conduct a course on best practices and lessons learned in managing relevant aspects of our own oil and gas sector. And before the end of the year, the Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance is planning to send an assessment team to meet on finance, revenue, and tax issues.
We also are very committed to providing any information that the government requests on sovereign wealth funds, and other countries are also assisting – Australia, Norway among them. Because we know that Papua New Guinea wants to do this right, and we want to provide whatever technical assistance and help they would need. I also have to add that six women from PNG have recently returned from an Exxon-Mobil Global Women’s Management Training Program because we want to also be sure that women are well-trained to take positions in these growing industries.
So there’s many aspects of our offer of assistance that have already begun and others that are available.
PRIME MINISTER SOMARE: To answer your question on the violence against women, yes, we have cases where there are these type of happenings, but we know that we have systems through the welfare system who can be controlled and the women also have a right to be able to use our courts and legal system (inaudible) courts if they are treated this way.
But I think overall, we sometimes get a painted picture of how cruel we are with our women, and this is not true. This is a perception from people like yourself and people who write about us. That’s what they like to paint about this country. And I’m telling you that I have been around for a long time and I know that men and the women, sometimes there are fights, arguments do take place, but it’s nothing very brutal about violence against women. There are cases. These are criminal cases. If you are talking about criminal cases, they’re different, but normal way of life, normal way of living; i.e., I can stand up here and vow to you that Papua New Guinea has systems.
I think with more education now, more and more of our people are educated, young men and women are educated, and they understand that violence against women is wrong. And even our civil service and people who are employed in industries, they know it’s against the law to use violence against women. We have cases where people are drunk, which you know might (inaudible) a person who cannot control when he’s under the influence of liquor. And you find that sometimes (inaudible) it takes place in some places. We cannot deny it.
But we are doing everything possible, and through the education system alone and allowing the women to play a very important role in a society. That’s the only way we can overcome this problem. But all in all, sometimes it’s exaggerated by people who write about us. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Matt Lee from Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hi Madam Secretary, I’d like to take you a little further afield, but I will make the questions relevant locally. This afternoon when we arrived here, we went to the mangrove ceremony and you mentioned what you just mentioned here, which is the $21 million that you are seeking from Congress. That’s my question. Are you concerned at all that the Administration’s foreign policy agenda on things like climate change or other issues where you might not necessarily agree with the new majority in the House could be damaged because of what happened in the vote? And how will you continue to push for what you think is important – you and the Administration? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, as you know, I served in the Senate for eight years. For six of those eight years I was in the minority. And what I have always found is that when it comes to foreign policy, it is important to remember that politics stops at the water’s edge. And you can build coalitions and you can make your case and you can find allies on issues that are in America’s interest and in the furtherance of our security and our values. And I will be working very hard in the weeks and months ahead to get to know new members and new leadership and to work with them on behalf of the United States of America.
QUESTION: Elia (inaudible), AFP. In light of recent video footage of Indonesian forces torturing West Papuans, what does the U.S. say to Indonesia regarding this issue. And what are – what is Papua New Guinea’s responsibility and Australia’s responsibility in this regional issue?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we consider ourselves a friend and ally of Indonesia, as we do of Papua New Guinea. Any matters that come to our attention are obviously discussed and explored with our friends and partners. I have no comment on the specific matter you refer to, but I know that it’s the United States’s policy to raise questions if questions arise.
But as you also know, the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian military has made significant changes in the last years, in the 10 years of democracy. If there are continuing violations of human rights, then they should be investigated by the appropriate authorities, and those responsible should be held accountable.
PRIME MINISTER SOMARE: We share a border with Indonesia. It’s a boundary that we have respect for each other. We signed an understanding of non-interference of each border 10 to 20 kilometers each from both sides. And our relationship with Indonesia since we came to government and our previous governments (inaudible) excellent relations with Indonesia.
We know that there are people, there are groups who are anti-Indonesia and they, our citizens, Papuans, West Papuans, they want to have a choice, they want to have a self-determination. But I think what has happened now, Yudhoyono’s administration has really moved far, far ahead to make sure that the (inaudible) Papua region, West Papua region (inaudible) four regions. And they are now beginning to establish regional governments.
The particular incident you’re talking about, yes, it does happen, but I think we have systems where we raise it in international community. Our relationship with Indonesia is good. Our foreign ministers can pick up a phone and express a concern, and we know of several incidences. And (inaudible) we have a yearly dialogue with the border relationship meetings and foreign minister-to-foreign minister relations are excellent. And we have complained, this incident you are talking about, yes we are aware of it, and our foreign minister has expressed views to Indonesia’s foreign minister, and we still are waiting for a response from them.
I think there is an understanding there are people who want to go against the system, and of course, these things happen. But we have no real problems with Indonesia since we signed a relationship with them. People have been crossing before, but now they are asking, our people, people who came – Papuans who came here to be with us, some of them to return to their country. I have a person I employ as my driver. He go and come, sees family on the other side, comes by road to Vanimo, he goes out, sees family in Lake Sentani and he comes back, and nothing happens. There is more trade taking place on the border between people of East and West Sepik and Madang, (inaudible) Madang. People go across with ordinary passes. They go and come. So there is a good relationship with Indonesia.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.