Papua New Guinea Time Zone UTC+10:00
Capital City Port Moresby
Currency Papua New Guinean Kina
National Day 16 Sep.
Her Excellency Winnie Anna Kiap, a mother of two and a grandmother of five from Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), arrived on 25 August to head the Mission in London with accreditation to Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, South Africa and Zimbabwe. She is keen to use her role to promote her country in the UK and the other countries of her accreditation as a as well as to learn more about democratic and governance processes from her Commonwealth partners which may be applied back home.
Until 1975 PNG was ruled by external powers, the last of them Australia, and Ms Kiap recalls that ‘In those days…we had no Papua New Guineans as role models whatsoever. A lot has changed over the last few decades. [Back then] it would have been unforeseeable that PNG would become independent or that Papua New Guineans would actually hold the positions that Australians held at the time.’
The High Commissioner accredits her parents’ focus on education – hard work enabled her to attend both secondary school and university in Australia – for her success. Having begun her civil-service career in the PNG Department of Trade and Industry, later moving to the position of Director of Corporate Services in the Investment Promotion Authority, Ms Kiap has much experience in trade and investment. The past 10 years have seen her rise to Secretary to the National Executive Council (cabinet), her most recent previous appointment. ‘As Secretary to the National Executive Council she says, ‘one is in a unique position to know a lot about what’s going on in the country, so from that springboard, I am prepared for the challenge as head of the PNG Mission here.’
Now in London, Ms Kiap has already experienced a good deal of activity and excitement, including meetings with various Commonwealth partners to delineate how PNG and the other Pacific Island countries fit into the group. However, she cites paying a courtesy call on Her Majesty as her most memorable moment so far: ‘Her Majesty the Queen is represented in our country by a Governor-General, so to pay a courtesy call on my Head of State was quite an amazing experience’.
As High Commissioner, Ms Kiap wants to promote UK investment in PNG’s natural resources as an aid to economic growth. ‘The EU has become a very important market for us, for our commodities of coffee, cocoa and fish,’ she says, ‘so the challenge for Papua New Guinea is to determine where we are going to benefit from the UK and EU and develop our presence.’ Under the auspices of the Commonwealth, Ms Kiap will also advocate for various social and political developments in her home country, including the consolidation of a democracy that is often strained by diverse and historically conflicting tribal communities. ‘We are battling with two main issues: democratic and governance processes, starting with elections all the way up to constitutional decisions,’ she says. High on her agenda are gender equality and youth leadership: ‘We are trying to get a law that will compel voters to elect women into our parliament. I’m also very happy that the Commonwealth has taken up the issue of youth in a major way, so I would like to explore how we can benefit from that.’
High Commissioner Kiap is a huge fan of literature and gains much of her knowledge and enjoyment from reading, sagely observing that ‘I can’t know about the past, which is shaping the present and future, unless I read.’ She also would like to take advantage of being based in London in order to indulge her passion for travelling. Having previously explored Northern Vietnam, she has her sights set on both Turkey and Morocco as destinations for this year. Ms Kiap’s great experience and passion make her the ideal candidate to represent PNG to the UK.