The National – PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill will officially open the 2015 Pacific Games on July 4 at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.
The Sports Minister’s office confirmed Monday night that O’Neill would take over the proceedings after the response to Papua New Guinea’s request for a member of the British Royal Family to open the Games was unfavourable.
O’Neill will officiate at the opening ceremony in a year that will make the country’s 40th independence anniversary.
During his visit to the United Kingdom during the Rugby League World Cup in November 2013, Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko extended the invitation through Papua New Guinea High Commission in London to have a member of the Royal family officiate at the Games.
High Commissioner Winnie Kiap took it up and delivered the Letter of Invitation to Buckingham Palace but she did not receive a favourable response.
“Kiap had several negotiations with the Royal family but she did not receive any response,” a spokesman said.
Pacific Games Council president Vidhya Lakhan confirmed that O’Neill would open the event however, he was aware that the State was initially hoping to have a member of the British royal family at the opening ceremony.
Papua New Guinea is not the only country to miss out on a royal visit; an invitation to the coronation of the King of Tonga, which is to take place in the same month as the Games, was declined.
Lakhan said having a national leader, a head of state or a royal open a major regional sports event is standard practice, with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy having opened the last Games in 2011 in Noumea, New Caledonia. The Duke of Kent, Prince Edward, opened the 1969 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby and 22 years later Prince Andrew, was the guest of honour at the 1991 Games.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited PNG in November 2012 for the nation’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.