Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has asked the people of Papua New Guinea to “forgive” the country’s Foreign Minister, Justin Tkatchenko, after he apologised for his “primitive animals” comments.
Tkatchenko made the comments during an interview with the ABC on Wednesday, in response to people criticising his daughter over a TikTok video she posted.
In a statement issued late on Thursday, Marape said he was also offended by the remarks but had accepted the minister’s apology and “asked all Papua New Guineans to do likewise and forgive him”.
“We should not be labelling our citizens as ‘primitive animals’, even if they have wronged us,” he said.
The TikTok video — made during a PNG taxpayer-funded trip to the coronation of King Charles III — was tagged #aussiesinengland and flaunted cocktails and lavish meals at first-class airport lounges.
It triggered widespread anger in PNG, where almost 40 percent of people live below the basic needs poverty line, according to the World Bank.
“My daughter] is absolutely traumatised by these primitive animals. And I call them primitive animals because they are,” Tkatchenko said in the interview.
PNG Opposition Leader Joseph Lelang said Tkatchenko’s “racist” and “very derogatory2 comments were insulting to Papua New Guineans and he called for him to be sacked.
Government MP Belden Namah — the chairman of PNG’s Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs — said if Tkatchenko did not resign as a member of parliament and renounce his citizenship, he should be sacked and have his citizenship revoked.
In the statement, Marape said he summoned Tkatchenko “to explain the circumstances behind the public outburst” and expressed concern about his use of words.
“Minister Tkatchenko apologised to me and to the country for his remarks [and] for the use of the words ‘primitive animals’,” he said.
Marape said he apologised to PNG for Tkatchenko’s “unsavoury use of words”.
“I appeal to our people that we should rise above these issues and stand united as one people, one nation, one country regardless of colour or creed,” he said.
“We are a unique blend of ethnic diversities and, as Christians, we can forgive each other.
“I am also offended, like some of you, but our national character is put to the test … and we must show the world that we can forgive those who offend us.”
Marape highlighted the fact that US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 16 Pacific leaders were due to visit PNG in less than two weeks, “in what will be one of the most important events in our 48 years of nationhood”.
“This will be a momentous and historic occasion which should rally our nation together and we should not let this issue stand in the way,” he said.
“I ask our citizens, far and wide who have been offended by Minister Tkatchenko’s remarks to forgive him.
“The spotlight of the world is upon us now and for the next 10 days until the two global leaders arrive.
“There can be no greater reference for our national character than us showing the spirit of forgiveness,”
SOURCE: ABC PACIFIC/PACNEWS