Papua New Guinea Welcomes Britain's Charles and Camilla

Britain's Prince Charles and wife Camilla arrived in Papua New Guinea on Saturday where they were welcomed with a 21-gun salute and traditional songs and dances as a threatened protest failed to materialize.

Several thousand well-wishers had earlier gathered at Port Moresby's Jackson's International Airport to catch a glimpse of the royal couple who are on a tour from November 3-16 which includes Australia and New Zealand.

Among those greeting the royal visitors were scores of school children as well as young dancers daubed in body paint and wearing traditional dress.

Anticipation for the visit, which is part of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, had been building in impoverished PNG, with the Post-Courier newspaper on Friday declaring: "Welcome to Papua New Guinea, Your Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla!"

The paper said the visit would be like a "home-coming" for Charles who first travelled to PNG in the 1960s when he was an exchange student in Australia and stayed at the Martyrs' Memorial Anglican School for boys in Northern Province.

"The Prince did not stay with the school principal," it said. "He stayed with the boys at Sefoa Garden House, slept with them, ate kaukau (yams) and bananas and did what they did."

Charles has been back to the Pacific nation twice since, but it is the first visit for Camilla, who has reportedly been on a private holiday at a holistic health retreat in India ahead of their arrival.

Britain proclaimed a protectorate over what became known as British New Guinea in the late 1800s. Australia later took over but Papua New Guinea proceeded to full independence in 1975.

The royals touched down as scheduled at 6pm (0800 GMT), untroubled by disgruntled local landowners who had threatened to disrupt the arrival, claiming they are still owed some 4.5 million kina (US$2.1 million) in compensation for the land on which Port Moresby's airport is built.

"If it means shutting down the airport on the arrival of Prince Charles, then we can do it and face the consequences," their spokesman Kila Joe Gabutu had said last week.

Instead, a joyous crowd of several thousand people cheered the couple, earning the smiles and waves of the prince and duchess.

PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill had encouraged his people to welcome the British visitors whose trip follows that of Prince William and his wife Catherine to the Pacific states of the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

"Their Royal Highnesses are honored guests and their visit reflects the strong relationship between PNG, Her Majesty The Queen, our Head of State, and the Royal Family," O'Neill said ahead of the visit.

While in PNG, Charles and Camilla are due to visit the capital Port Moresby and also Boera village, where locals are restoring coastal mangroves.

Traditional sing-sings will be on the agenda, where tribes or villages gather to show off their distinct culture, dance and music, dressing in elaborate costumes and war paint.

The couple leave PNG on Monday for Australia and wrap up their tour in New Zealand.

Source: Agence France Presse

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