Envoy Slams Pacific Islands Development Forum

PORT MORESBY - Former PNG envoy to the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu Ambassador Brian Yombon-Copio has said that there is no need for the formation of another regional organisation to be known as the 'Pacific Islands Development Forum'. Mr Yombon-Copio has learned the proposed organisation's main objective was to encourage sustainable economies among the Pacific Islands nations.

He warned that it is a replica of the functions of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

The former envoy who has working knowledge of regional organisations put specific emphasis that the PIF serves as an umbrella organisation and under it there are various sector organisations which are capable of dealing with specific issues. He further elaborated that the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) deals with matters relating to fisheries while the Climate office deals with climate change etc.

Mr Yombon-Copio believes one of the Pacific Island nations must have initiated the formation of the Pacific Islands Development Forum for its own reasons and lured support from other Pacific Islands nations including PNG for its realisation.

"However PNG must rationalise the primary motive for the formation of the organisation before supporting it," Mr Yombon -Copio said in a statement.

He said someone might have issues with the PIF in which Australia and New Zealand have strong representation and PNG cannot come too low to support the duplication of functions to frustrate its major economic partners.

Ambassador Yombon-Copio said in recent times the MSG had acquired additional responsibilities thus its core functions have increased to complement the functions of the PIF. He said some of the contemporary issues like climate change, people smuggling, supply of tuna, illegal fishing, liberalising smaller economies, etc are being dealt with by the MSG.

Mr Yombon-Copio said PNG must demonstrate leadership within the region and it cannot be lured into agreeing on the proposal for the formation of another regional bloc for the convenience of a particular Island nation. He said Pacific Island countries have the potential to grow their economies and they must enhance by partnership engagement with the developed economies of the Pacific which include Australia and New Zealand.

The former envoy said PNG has potential for full economic growth and it has closer engagement with the developed economies and PNG must be careful about pursuing other island countries hidden motives as the contrary would disappoint its core economic partners. He added that economies of the Pacific Islands countries are vulnerable and they have a long way to reach maturity thus require the guidance of the stronger economies. However Ambassador Yombon-Copio said it would be appropriate to see the incorporation of the Pacific Islands Development Forum into the Pacific Islands Forum as an Agency.

"There is nothing wrong with such an arrangement and PNG should fully endorse it," said the diplomat.

Mr Yombon-Copio was the high commissioner to the Solomon Islands before being recalled. Each woman in the groups was asked to bank K500 and K10,000 as a group to be eligible to obtain loans from the foundation.

Solwara Meris raised and deposited K4591, Mosibu K940, Asitec K1801 and Blue Sea K2482 a total of K9814. Lasitewec and the other group did not provide their financial statements.

The women were each supplied a passbook in which they recorded how much each individual had deposited and it was verified by an employee of the foundation branch in Lae.

There were no formal guidelines and policies to reimburse or refund the women their money in the event that the scheme defaulted, folded or otherwise.

The women started depositing the monies as early as 2005, two years before City Mother's Business Foundation was officially launched by then Governor General Sir Paulias Matane at the Drill Hall of the University of Papua New Guinea on 11 May, 2007.

The first deposits were collected and banked with the foundation on 5 May, 2005 and two years on, 3 June 2007 deposits as high as K100 were deposited into the individual accounts.

The foundation later changed its name to PNG Women in Business Microfinance and is supposed to inherit its predecessor's business dealings, but Chief Executive Officer of PNGWIB when approached to explain where the deposits lodged by the women are, refused to explain.

The CEO referred this reporter to Mrs Sape, the woman behind the formation of Women in Business Microfinance. Sources at the office quoted their CEO as saying the deals were done before her time and she would not deal with it. Queries were to be directed to Mrs Sape.

However when approached and asked to comment on the deposits made, where the monies were currenlty and if it can be returned to depositors Mrs Sape said they had yet to obtain their banking license. According to her they would then sort the depositors or allow them to take out loans.

Post-Courier checked with Bank of Papua New Guinea to ascertain whether PNGWiB has an application before them for a license and it was confirmed. However one of the main conditions is that, an entity must have K1.5 million in cash besides others to be granted a bank license. [PostCourier]
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