ABC PACIFIC BEAT: By Marian Faa and Belinda Kora
Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister has vehemently defended his daughter against a furious backlash to a TikTok video she posted as part of PNG’s official delegation to King Charles III’s coronation.
The video posted by Savannah Tkatchenko flaunts extravagant meals in first class airport lounges and “elite” shopping experiences at luxury brands on the taxpayer-funded trip.
“We did some shopping around Singapore airport at Hermes and Louis Vuitton. For those of you that don’t know, Singapore airport shopping is so elite,” she said in the clip.
Savannah Tkatchenko attended the coronation in London alongside her father, Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko, and two other officials.
The video has garnered widespread criticism in PNG, with commentators saying money for the trip should have been spent on improving healthcare, education and other services in the impoverished county.
Speaking to ABC’s Pacific Beat, Minister Tkatchenko said critics of the video were “primitive animals” with “nothing better to do”.
He said his daughter did not actually purchase anything at some shops featured in the video.
Speaking to ABC’s Pacific Beat, Mr Tkachenko said critics of the video were “primitive animals” with “nothing better to do” 😳 https://t.co/lO1wEpBJkd
— Ben Packham (@bennpackham) May 10, 2023
‘My daughter is devastated’
“My daughter now is totally devastated. She is traumatised by some of the most ridiculous and useless comments that I’ve seen,” he said.
“Jealousy is a curse. And, you know, these people clearly show that they have got nothing to do in their lives.”
About 40 percent of Papua New Guineans live below the basic needs poverty line, according to World Bank data published in 2020.
Tkatchenko said his daughter was selected to attend the coronation in the place of his wife, who could not make the event.
“The best next person in my family was my eldest daughter, who is a qualified lawyer by profession,” he said.
“We went to London, we attended all the meetings and events, and she represented her country without fear or favour to the highest degree and honour.”
PNG social justice advocate and former election candidate Tania Bale said the minister’s response was “tone deaf”.
Fuuurious online backlash in PNG after FM Justin Tkachenko’s daughter posted a TikTok video of her (taxpayer funded) trip to London to attend the King’s Coronation. FM has responded angrily, saying his daughter has copped online abuse from “useless” people and “primitive animals” https://t.co/e6f7GCswOJ
— Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) May 10, 2023
“It’s completely offensive to the people of Papua New Guinea and the suffering that we’re going through. It shows complete contempt for us,” she said.
“There’s just a big disconnect with what I’m seeing in this video of super luxury . . . and you contrast that with how our people actually live.”
According to local media, the coronation cost PNG taxpayers 6 million kina (NZ$2.7 million) — half of which was spent on an in-country celebration attended by Prime Minister James Marape.
Tkatchenko said he could not confirm reports that PNG Governor-General Bob Dadae also took a delegation of between 10 and 30 people to the coronation, saying the trips were “completely separate”.
“We attended the coronation because of our connection with the monarchy, the connection with the Commonwealth. It’s very straightforward. It’s nothing to hide,” he said.
Lae resident Laurence, who did not want to use his last name out of fear of reprisal for speaking out, said the spending did not seem justified.
Facing ‘a lot of issues’
“The country is facing a lot of issues and that sort of money should be spent on other services in a country instead of for just a single event or trip,” he said.
The video has now been removed from Tik Tok and Savannah Tkatchenko appears to have deleted her account.
Minister Tkatchenko said the coronation visit was a success for PNG.
“I hold my head up high. We had a fantastic coronation. Papua New Guinea was represented at the highest order. The King was so impressed,” he said.
The ABC has contacted Savannah Tkatchenko for comment.