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PNG foreign minister stands aside over coronation trip

Kirsty Needham -

Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko says he is standing aside amid a controversy over the cost and size of the developing country's delegation to the coronation of King Charles III in London.

Mr Tkatchenko said in a statement on Friday he "stood aside" after consulting with Prime Minister James Marape, who would assume the portfolio.

He remains in parliament.

"I want to make sure the recent events do not interfere with the official visits and summits we are going to have with all the world leaders in the coming weeks," Mr Tkatchenko said

"I also want to ensure the truth of this matter is cleared and the misinformation and lies are corrected."

Mr Tkatchenko's daughter, who accompanied him on the trip, has become a focal point for anger after a social media account in her name discussed luxury shopping before boarding a flight in Singapore.

In an interview with Australia's ABC on Wednesday, Mr Tkatchenko called critics of his daughter's TikTok posts "primitive animals" and "useless individuals", sparking calls for him to resign.

His daughter's videos, posted during her PNG taxpayer-funded trip to London with her father for the coronation, featured lavish meals at first-class airport lounges, cocktails and luxury hotels.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Marape said Mr Tkatchenko had apologised to the people of PNG for the remarks he made to the ABC.

Mr Marape said he was also offended by the remarks.

US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are due in PNG on May 22 for a historic visit.

On Wednesday, Mr Tkatchenko said Biden would sign a defence pact with PNG, which is being courted by the US and China amid a contest for influence in the Pacific islands region.

He had been closely involved in the US negotiations.

Mr Marape said in a statement on Friday evening he would take over supervision of preparations for the arrival of President Biden, Prime Minister Modi and more than a dozen Pacific island leaders.

He commended Mr Tkatchenko for putting the national interest first.

Media and online news sites in PNG, a Pacific island member of the Commonwealth, have been running hot with insults and criticism of the cost of travel since Saturday's coronation in London's Westminster Abbey, with many saying the money would have been better spent on hospitals.

Each delegate had a 50,000 kina ($A20,500) allowance to cover hotels and airfares.

Mr Marape also said he wanted to apologise to Mr 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 said.

Government House official secretary Bill Toraso on Wednesday denied media reports the governor general's office had spent three million kina ($A1.23 million), but confirmed to Reuters 10 of its staff had travelled to London in addition to 10 guests.

Two foreign ministry officials also travelled with Mr Tkatchenko, who had been asked by Mr Marape to represent PNG in his place.

Kirsty Needham - AAP


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