Political will lacking to rebuild the PNG military
A former head of Papua New Guinea's defence force Major General Jerry Singirok says efforts to rebuild the army are floundering for a lack of political will, while the military remains in a dire state.
A former head of Papua New Guinea's defence force Major General Jerry Singirok says political will to rebuild the army is lacking.
PNG released a defence white paper last year amid announcements by the Defence Minister, Fabian Pok, that personnel numbers would be built from 2,000 to 5,000 in four years.
However the numbers remain largely static and General Singirok says the military's general direction is lagging.
He spoke to Johnny Blades who asked if enough resources are being channelled into the Defence Force for it to rebuild.
JERRY SINGIROK: There is sufficient money because the strength is only two-thousand. But the government is struggling to sustain the Defence Force because they haven't removed the backlog of retrenched soldiers and their families. That's the biggest problem, impediment at the moment.
JOHNNY BLADES: What is causing a delay on that front? They (the government) must be aware of the unresolved issue here...
JS: Basically, no political will on the part of the government to take the issue seriously, and say well we want a coherent defence force. It's time that we get the Commander and the Secretary to do what we want them to do. It's basically to move all the non-effective people out, non-active soldiers out of the barracks and free up accommodation and space so that the force can be in a position to rebuild.
JB: Are there thousands of Papua New Guineans who are keen to join the force?
JS: Yes. My estimate is that there will be about a million youths ready to join the military if there's an opportunity. There's so many push-outs in our educational institutions and there's lack of job opportunities. This is the right time to employ recruits, young people, to join the military as soldiers, engineers or medics.
JB: And how do you see the Defence Force's current capacity, is it at a place equivalent to where it was, in relative terms, when you were in charge (in the 1990s)?
JS: No, it's nowhere near. The force is... the retrenchment exercise alone has crippled the Defence Force combat power which basically... around the nucleus of the workforce; highly-trained, available, fit human resource ready to execute the functions. But since the retrenchment exercise, there's no level of quality training available to do what they're trained to do. So the force is in a dire situation for its operational or combat power. Those elements are critically missing in the Defence Force, in all aspects - mobility, logistics, just general administration, general discipline - it's at its lowest. I'm very critical because there's absolutely no political will. The Minister for Defence can say what he wants but if cabinet doesn't support what he's saying, it's only as good as a political speech.
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