Hou queries gov’t on visa delay to US officials


MEMBER of Parliament for Small Malaita, Rick Hou has questioned the Government on the delay to issue visas to United States officials under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programmes in the country.

Hou told Parliament yesterday the matter has now taken at least six months to be finalized.

He said it is important for the USAID officials to enter the country to set up their office, US Embassy and its other programmes like the Strengthening Competitiveness, Agribusiness, Livelihoods and Environment (SCALE), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Peace corps.

Minister for Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration, Fredrick Kologeto was not available to response to the questions.

However, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade said first thing first, they have to have overall bilateral partnership framework for development cooperation and agreement.

Manele said Cabinet has passed a draft agreement, which they sent to US to comment on it and are still waiting for their response.

He said under the agreement are the details for the other agreements on the set up of US office, SCALE programme, MCC and Peace Corp.

“All these will come under the overall umbrella agreement,” Manele said.

“This is the similar arrangements we have with our development partners,” he added.

In addition, Manele said USAID William Pryor is currently undergoing 21 days mandatory quarantine.

He said Pryor will work on finalizing some of these arrangements so that they can move forward.

Member of Parliament for East Are Are, Peter Kenilorea Junior asked what is the government policy on Vienna Convention due to COVID-19.

Manele said in terms of project people, whether it is a need to give them exemptions.

He said sometimes these projects people are not diplomats but technical people.

“A point of contention sometimes.

“Important we have process in place, as much we want to work with them,” he said.

However, Kenilorea Junior, also Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, said these USAID officials are attached to State departments.

Manele said these are the issues they are currently working, as they move to set up office, what privileges or immunity to give to them.

He said this is subject to current discussion and will be working closely with US Embassy in Port Moresby on those.

Manele said similar arrangements was made with Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Japan.

“Something that is normal with partners, not only apply to US,” he added.

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