‘Jealousy is a curse’: Outcry over coronation trip forces resignation of PNG foreign minister

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A row over the cost of travel to the King’s coronation has prompted the resignation of Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister.

Justin Tkatchenko released a statement on Friday announcing that he was “stepping aside” over the controversy surrounding the cost and size of his country’s delegation to the May 6 ceremony.

King Charles III and Queen Camilla wave on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the Coronation of King Charles III.Credit: Getty Images

“I also want to ensure the truth of this matter is cleared and the misinformation and lies are corrected,” he added.

The Pacific island nation – which as a Commonwealth realm boasts the King as its head of state – sent 30 people to London for the Westminster Abbey service.

Each delegate who made the 14,000 kilometre journey was given an 50,000 Kina ($22,000) allowance to cover the cost of flights and accommodation.

The cost prompted an outcry in Papua New Guinea, where almost 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty. Media and online news sites have lambasted the government for the perceived excess, with many arguing that the money would have been better spent on hospitals.

PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko.

Tkatchenko’s daughter Savannah, a law student, who accompanied him on the trip, became a focus for public anger after posting a series of videos on TikTok, showing her travelling in first class and shopping in high end stores in Singapore, en route to London.

Tkatchenko branded his daughter’s critics “primitive animals” who had nothing better to do, prompting calls for him to resign.

He told ABC’s Pacific Beat: “My daughter now is totally devastated. She is traumatised by some of the most ridiculous and useless comments that I’ve seen.

“Jealousy is a curse. And, you know, these people clearly show that they have got nothing to do in their lives.”

He later told the Post Courier that his daughter “did not misuse any public funds” and insisted he would not resign.

But he changed tack on Friday, announcing that he would step aside so the row would not distract from President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the nation.

“I’m stepping aside as a foreign minister so that our country can move forward and that I can also clear my name and also clear the doubt and the misinformation that is out there,” Tkatchenko said.

He apologised for his comments and said they were “solely directed to the individuals that made these disgusting and vile comments” about his daughter.

‘Poor choice of words’

James Marape, the prime minister, said he wanted to apologise to Tkatchenko’s family, and especially his daughter Savannah for what he called “the traumatic experience over the last couple of days”.

“No woman deserves to be treated the way Savannah was treated over the last few days,” he added.

Marape acknowledged that Tkatchenko’s reference to “primitive animals” was a “poor choice of words”.

The Papua New Guinea delegation comprised 10 staff from the governor general’s office in addition to 10 guests, who travelled separately.

Two foreign ministry officials also travelled with Tkatchenko, who represented Marape. He took with him his daughter, a bodyguard and a protocol officer.

The Telegraph, London

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