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Jakarta Post

Indonesian official barred from entering PNG by coronavirus measures

  • Michael Andrew

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, February 6, 2020   /   12:27 pm
Indonesian official barred from entering PNG by coronavirus measures People walk across the border post at Wutung, Papua New Guinea to reach the Indonesian side in Skouw, as border security officers patrol the area. Ethnic Papuans from both countries are able to cross the borders regularly under an agreement acknowledging homogeneous cultural links. (RNZ/via Tempo/Johnny Blades)

The Indonesian consul in Vainamo, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Abraham Lebelauw is stranded in Jayapura after he was barred entry at the land border because of measures being taken against the Wuhan coronavirus. 

Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Patric Pruaitch told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the consul was denied entry at the Wutung border post, which has been temporarily closed to prevent the spread of the virus. 

He said officials are in talks with the Indonesian ambassador to allow Lebelauw to return to the consulate in Vainamo, a PNG town 40 kilometers from the border, to continue his work.

“We are following measures to ensure that his entry [into PNG] is facilitated,”

According to PNG newspaper The National, Lebelauw was disappointed that he was not allowed to enter under his diplomatic immunity.

He said thermal coronavirus detection scanners were available at the border but were not used.

“There are no reported cases yet in Indonesia and I clearly am not coming from Wuhan,” he told The National.

He said that border authorities in Indonesia were not properly advised before the border was closed.

“As a neighboring country with a good relationship with Papua New Guinea, it is wise to talk, discuss and work together to solve the problem, as we already did when combating a polio outbreak some time ago.

“I hope that when we talk about borders, we can sit and talk together first, since any decision that we make will have implications for many people and sectors, especially when it comes to borders between PNG and Indonesia.”

PNG citizens were reportedly stranded on the Indonesian side of the border after it was closed last week.

A number of PNG nationals in Wuhan – the epicenter of the coronavirus – left China with other evacuees on an Air New Zealand flight, which landed in Auckland today. Included on the flight were 17 citizens of Timor Leste and a number of other Pacific nation citizens.

All the evacuees are to be placed in quarantine in Auckland for the next 14 days.

– The writer is an intern under the ACICIS program