Former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has also pointed out that the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) was started in 2016 by his Government but the agreement was different in content.
He said that the agreement encroaches into sovereignty of the country, particularly Article 3 of the Agreement that relates to giving immunity to the U.S military personnel.
He said this section states that PNG is conceding its jurisdiction over to the visiting forces and it further states that the U.S Force will have exclusive rights over criminal jurisdictions against the U.S military personnel.
“Bear in mind the Australian ECP that was challenged by the Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and the Supreme Court nullified the Agreement and this Agreement is similar in nature.
When we are adopting in this parliament, we are conceding our jurisdiction over to the U.S Government so we just need to be careful about what we are saying.
“Additionally the agreement says that the U.S Government has exclusive rights to exercise civil and administrative jurisdiction over the U.S personnel for all their acts while on duty.
“Any act done outside of duty will come under PNG jurisdiction but PNG authorities will immediately notify the U.S authorities, and properly transfer the personnel over to the U.S authorities, that the U.S authorities will be notified of the detention or arrest and that their properties will be inviolable.
“This is not in line with the provisions of our Constitution. That was tested by the Wenge challenge so I think Parliament and Government needs to take heed of this,” he said.
O’Neill said paragraph 4 states that U.S personnel will have the authority to impose discipline measures in the territory of PNG in accordance with U.S laws and regulations.
He said Manus, Jackson Airport, Nazab Airport, Lae Port, Lombrum, and Momote airport are areas the U.S will have unlimited access to and control over these facilities and areas.
“This is what we have agreed to and they will not pay one single toea and according to Article 5 paragraph 2 and these properties will be given access without rental and charges to the U.S.
“And further on Article 6, US forces can position their equipment, their personnel, supplies and materials at any of these places.
He further added that when talking about ownership of infrastructures, nothing will be fixed to the ground and they will remove them and go away with them.
He said the agreement according to Article 9 paragraph 2 says that all the people that will come to PNG (U.S military person and contractors) will be exempted from all other immigration requirement including payments of fees, taxes and duties for entry or exiting the country.
He said Article 12 paragraph 4, the U.S personnel will be exempted from paying taxes includes income, salary and emoluments.
“So there will be no revenues from salary and wages tax and in Paragraph 5 states that includes their contractors they engaged will be also exempted.
“I can’t see any agreement about training of our personnel, I can’t see any of our personnel being engaged with the U.S Army and I can’t see any specific investment in the infrastructure in the country.
“So why are we doing this agreement for?
“There is no specifics of what benefit is coming as it is not mentioned in the Agreement.
“In the Ship Rider Agreement, we are giving almost exclusive rights to our waters. Therefore, we need to be careful.
“I know our lawyers are having a look at it, and probably see that it is in compliance with our constitution but I think there need to be further clarity into this agreement,” he said.
Meanwhile, the recently signed Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States got a much needed shakeup when Members of Parliament put the accord under scrutiny during the debate in Parliament.
While most leaders were in support of the DCA, others spoke of caution, Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin was more forthright.
He claimed he was never consulted on the agreement since he is Governor of Manus, which is the proposed site of a massive naval base for the Americans.
He said that Manus was beset by the legacy of the PNG Australia agreement for the previous asylum centre where the proposed hospital and roads upgrades have never been honoured.
NCD Governor Powes Parkop, a human rights lawyer, asked: “where has the United States been all these years?”
Former army officer and Vanimo Green MP Belden Namah said the DCA was a good agreement that would bring a lot of benefit to the country.
Opposition Leader Joseph Lelang treated the DCA with vigilance saying it was not good to give the Americans immunity from prosecution, and do as they pleased in PNG among others.
He said experience showed that Americans do not respect and work according to agreements.
East Sepik Governor Allan Bird said it was a good agreement that would benefit the country immensely.
He said it was time to bite the bullet and move forward, allow them to come in so we can test our defence in PNG.
The usually outspoken Oro Governor Gary Juffa was diplomatic and called on fellow MPs to weigh the good and bad sides of what the agreement would bring before voting on it.
Another outspoken leader and Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, a former acting judge of the high court, said his provincial capital Lae will benefit infrastructure wise from the American presence.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS