12 June, 2017
THE DEPORTATION OF MR. DOUGLAS TENNENT
Who is Mr. Douglas Tennent? He is well known in the country especially by many lawyers, having been a lecturer of law at UPNG for many years. He was also a lay missionary in the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen and in the diocese of Gizo in the Solomon Islands. He came to the Archdiocese of Rabaul at the beginning of 2014 as lay missionary. Since then he held the task of Administrator of the Archdiocese.
What is his greatest fault? Yes, he is very passionate about justice, about the Social Teaching of the Church to a fault. He will go out of his way to help the poor and the downtrodden. He has done this for 30 years. According to a prominent citizen of Papua New Guiinea “he should be given the right to a dual citizenship rather than being deported”.
On Friday, 9 June, in the afternoon two officers from the Office of the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority came from Port Moresby to serve Mr. Tennent with the “Notice of Cancellation of Entry Permit” and “Direction as to Custody and Removal Order”, which were signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.
Mr. Douglas Tennent was picked up from Vunapope at about 10:45 a.m., on Sunday, 11 June, 2017 and brought to Port Moresby. Until 12:00 noon today we could not make contact with him. We finally were able to talk to each when he was already at Jackson airport, waiting to depart for New Zealand.
What is his crime? We don’t know! We don’t know who lodged a complaint against him and what the accusations against him are. The only thing we know is what is written in the Notice of Cancellation of the Entry Permit, signed by the Acting Chief Migration Officer: “The cancellation of your entry permit by the Minister is due to the blatant abuse of the conditions of your Special Exemption/Religious Worker visa by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.
What about his involvement in sensitive landowner issues?
· In regard to land issues, whether large plantations or the land in Kokopo, Mr. Doug Tennent was tasked to carry out the decisions of the Land Board of the Archdiocese. He did not act on his own.
· As for the involvement of the Archdiocese in the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project in West Pomio, Mr. Tennent was providing legal advice to the Archbishop, who was asked by the people of West Pomio to speak up for them.
Did Mr. Tennent blatantly abuse the conditions of his Visa as Religious Worker? Absolutely not! As I wrote in my previous letter: “Those who live at Vunapope know very well that he worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to solve the many land issues that we still have”. He worked exclusively for the Archdiocese of Rabaul, which provided him with board and lodging and a monthly allowance. He did not receive an expatriate salary.
As mentioned, the cancellation of Mr. Doug’s entry permit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs was due to “the blatant abuse” of the conditions of his visa as Religious Worker. With due respect, the blatant abuse of power came from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as from the Acting Chief Migration Officer.
In fact, since the entry permit of Mr. Tennent was for a period exceeding 6 months, the Minister abused his power by insisting on Mr. Tennent’s removal from Papua New Guinea, thereby denying the right to be present while his appeal, under section 6(2) of the Migration Act, was being heard and processed. In support of this view, the National Court at Kokopo, at about 11:00 a.m, Monday 12 June, 2017, issued orders staying the deportation order and prohibiting any airlines to transport Mr. Tennent. The document of the stay order was handed to the immigration officer in the International Airport at Port Moresby prior to the scheduled departure of Mr. Tennent.
Even though the undersigned is not a lawyer, it is very obvious that the purported notice of cancellation and order to leave the country is legally flawed in that the officers of immigration have exceeded their jurisdiction by denying Mr Tennent the right to be present while his appeal is heard or process..
Since the reasons given for the cancellation of Mr. Tennent’s entry permit appear to be vague generalities that do not warrant its cancellation, the Archdiocese of Rabaul has a right to know who lodged the complaints and the accusations against Mr. Tennent.
Any ordinary person knows that orders of this kind cannot be given unless there are powerful and wealthy institutions and personalities behind. For the sake of the ordinary and innocent people of PNG, we ask the Government to come clear once and for all.
In conclusion, I want to inform all seating candidates and aspiring candidates for National Elections that neither the Archdiocese of Rabaul or the Catholic Bishops’ Conference will take this matter lightly as it seems to imply that to work for justice is outside of a “Religious Worker” status.
Today’s Gospel reading tells us: “Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness, the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you” (Mt 5:10-12).
+ Francesco Panfilo, SDB Archbishop of Rabaul
Right Hon.Peter O’Neil, Prime Minister
Hon. Leo Dion, Deputy Prime Minister
Hon. Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Mr. Solomon Kantha, Acting Chief Migration Officer