Deported Kiwi lay missionary Doug Tennent has finally returned to Papua New Guinea but was allowed back with a “condition”.
“I’m back in the country and being very aware that I need to tread carefully,” he told NZ Catholic in an email dated August 22.
He said a PNG court ruled that he should be back by August 8.
“They [the PNG government] then put a special condition on me. That was that I was not to get involved in activist activities which creates tension amongst land owners,” he said.
Mr Tennent said at first he baulked at the condition, but Rabaul Archbishop Francesco Panfilo said it was more important for him to get back into the country and address the issues there.
“We made it clear [to the government] that the role of the Church is to promote peace, unity and harmony,” said Mr Tennent. Mr Tennent is the administrator of the Rabaul archdiocese.
PNG’s immigration department said Mr Tennent was deported in June due to allegedly blatant abuse of his visa after engaging in “sensitive landowner issues in the East New Britain Province”.
At the time of his deportation, Mr Tennent was negotiating on behalf of the people of West Pomio a more equitable agreement with a big Malaysian company, Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group, regarding the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project.
Archbishop Panfilo said the Church maintains that Mr Tennent has not done anything wrong.
In an interview with The Voice, the Rabaul archdiocese newsletter, the archbishop said because of what happened to Mr Tennent, the whole relationship between the Church and the PNG government “needs to be revisited”.
He said government officials and politicians have always praised the Church’s efforts in delivering services in the areas of health and education.
“Now, my question is: Is the Church no longer a partner if and when it advocates for the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden?” Archbishop Panfilo asked.
It is an absurd situation, Archbishop Panfilo said, when people who give their services for free, as in the case of Mr Tennent, “run the risk of being deported while those who cause these injustices can go scot-free”.