Small Pacific nation Papua New Guinea’s Police Commissioner David Manning has recently denied permission to Hindus from organising Durga Puja prayers.
Manning is also PNG’s designated COVID19 Pandemic Controller and his letter addressed to Mr Puspendu Maity, President of Port Moresby Durga Puja Committee, says:
“Your request has been considered and we note that this is a form of idol worshipping which is morally inappropriate and against our Christian values. As such, approval is not granted to host this event.”
The above letter signed by Manning was shared by Ben Peckham, Foreign affairs and defence correspondent of The Australian.
PNG does not have an official state religion. Although, the preamble to the PNG constitution pledges: “to guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now”.
After criticism, Manning has issued an apology letter, terming his earlier statement “a grave and unfortunate error” and claiming that he is not the author of the first letter.
In his apology letter, Manning says:
“I humbly seek your forgiveness for this unfortunate error and I hope that you accept this was not in any way deliberate.”
Manning has now asked the Hindu organisation to send further details of the proposed Durga Puja event so he can “personally make another assessment”.
He further claims to have ‘disciplined’ the author of the original letter.
Prior to this, in August 2021, Manning has also banned all flights from India citing “deception” on the part of the Indian Government.
PNG claimed that Indian authorities helped unauthorised passengers, including four people who were infected with Covid-19, arrive in Port Moresby.
“India must respect Papua New Guinea as a sovereign nation, and not participate in actions involving unscrupulous people, to violate our laws and undermine public health and safety measures.”
High Commission of India in Port Moresby strongly denied this claim and said in a statement:
“All foreign national passengers onboard the aircraft destined for Port Moresby held valid SOE [state of emergency] approvals, COVID PCR test and vaccination certificates. Passengers were only given tickets once they had provided the SOE approval, in line with the prescribed guidelines set out by the controller.”
Diplomatic relations between India and PNG, both Commonwealth countries, were established when the latter got independence from Australia in 1975.
As part of the Regional Assistance Initiative for Pacific Island countries, the Indian government offers grants-in-aid, humanitarian aid and disaster relief to PNG.
PNG has a total population of nine million with 3000 Indians who are mostly working in the LNG sector.
In 2016, Sasindran Muthuvel became the first Indian-origin Governor for West New Britain Province and a Minister of State-Owned Enterprises in PNG.
He was also awarded the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award’ by the Indian Government in 2012.