Exclusive: First Indian-origin Governor, Sasindran Muthuvel about PM Modi’s visit to Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently wrapped up his three-nation tour during which he became the first Indian leader to visit Papua New Guinea, but he was not the only Indian who marked a significant milestone in the Pacific country. 

Speaking exclusively to WION’s correspondent Sidhant Sibal, the incumbent Governor of West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, Sasindran Muthuvel made history when he became the first person of Indian origin to be elected to the Parliament of Papua New Guinea in 2012.

Muthuvel spoke to our correspondent about PM Modi’s visit, his story about becoming the governor, and Papua New Guinea’s ties with India. 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview: 

WION: How do you see PM Modi’s visit to Papua New Guinea given it was a major story in India and the Pacific as well? 

Muthuvel: First of all we thank Prime Minister Modiji for making this decision to visit Papua New Guinea the invitation of which was extended during a G20 Zoom conference along with all the developing countries’ prime ministers. Of course, it is extremely significant for one to be the prime minister and leader of the largest democracy coming to another democratic country. 

We are the largest nation in terms of landmass, population and economic activity. You know on multiple occasions people mention a small Pacific Island nation, Prime Minister James Marape, but we are a nation of 20 provinces, one autonomous region, and one capital district. It’s similar to the Indian States.

WION: You are the first Indian-origin person who is in the parliament of Papua New Guinea, I’m sure many Indians will be surprised to know that there’s an Indian-origin parliamentarian in PNG. Please tell us about your journey

Muthuvel: I was born in 1974 and brought up in India. In fact, my entire education has been done in Tamil medium and I did my college degree in horticulture from Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. I first stepped foot in Papua New Guinea on January 28, 1999 and came here for business, in the province that I currently stay and govern. 

In 2000, I started my career in retail and that’s how it all started. Obviously being in retail you have to master the language so that gives an advantage but the political intention came very late after I got my citizenship in 2007. I got elected in 2012, this is actually my third tenure in parliament and I was elected as a regional MP. 

I intended to go into politics in 2011 when our people actually pushed me into a local tribal plan because we used to run an operation where people don’t have to travel almost 70 to 80 kilometres. We go and built a shop right in the middle of no way between Kimbey and Galay two different towns at the time. 

People started floating around this idea in 2009 asking me to participate in the national General Election, of course, there were a lot of limitations irrespective of my religion, colour, caste, or creed and even though I was naturalised but still of a different origin. 

WION: People were surprised to see so many Indians and Indian-origin people who welcomed PM Modi in Papua New Guinea. Can you talk about the Indian diaspora in PNG? 

Muthuvel: We could have actually organised a much bigger event but unfortunately PM Modi was on a very tight schedule with bilateral meetings…so we could not prepare for a bigger community event. The Indians you saw are actually just from the capital of course there are many elders who have lived here since independence in 1975 when it was an Australian colony. 

So many Indians have also lost their lives in PNG when they were a part of the British army, so India-PNG connections go way back. The Indians at the airport who met with PM Modi might be around 30 per cent as many of them reside in other big cities across the island. There are at least 3,000 Indian citizens working in Papua New Guinea. 


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