Papua New Guinea police force labelled incompetent
Papua New Guinea's police force has been labelled as broken and incompetent following an alleged police shooting in Port Moresby that almost forced the city to a standstill.
Papua New Guinea's police force has been labelled as broken and incompetent following an alleged police shooting in Port Moresby that almost forced the city to a standstill. The shootings in Hanuabada are the latest in a string of allegations of police brutality and misconduct this year alone, and calls are growing louder for a major shakeup in the force.
Jamie Tahana reports.
Almost two weeks ago, the Port Moresby village of Hanuabada erupted into protest after two people were shot dead and several others injured when police allegedly opened fire into a crowd at a local market. The deaths, believed to be the result of a raid to enforce the city's controversial betel nut ban, prompted residents to blockade the main road through the village for five days, and demand $US4 million compensation for the killings. Our correspondent, Todagia Kelola, says the blockade almost shut down Port Moresby, as it cut fuel supplies to the city and forced some power stations to shut down.
TODAGIA KELOLA: Port Moresby city almost came to a standstill with the fuel for the city running short because tankers were blocked, and at the same time the power station that supports supply to city, the expatriates that operate that power plant had to be evacuated, so the power plant was shut down.
The Hanuabada shootings are the latest in a sting of incidents of police misconduct and has brought into question the access officers have to high-powered firearms. A policeman in Lae has been charged with wilful murder, after he was accused of killing a woman during a chase on New Year's Eve, and last weekend, a senior police officer said he was shot at by drunk officers in Eastern Highlands. The country's former military commander, Major General Jerry Singirok, says the incidents are symptomatic of a force that lacks command and control.
JERRY SINGIROK: These incidents are a worrying time for Papua New Guinea because all the signs and symptoms of an organisation that is incompetent and is unable to carry out its constitutional task is so evident, and if the police cannot put his rogue policemen in line or take disciplinary action then we're bound to end up in a failed state.
General Singirok, who chaired a major review into the police in 2005, says none of that report's 244 recommendations have been adopted by the government. He says if they had been many of the current issues could have been resolved.
JERRY SINGIROK: It addresses some serious issues of discipline, internal police ombudsman, there's a whole list of recommendations and part of the recommendations, basically, was to address the illegal use of weapons by members of the disciplined forces. Now, we've missed the opportunity and I'm suggesting to the government that it adopts the 2005 report immediately.
In response to the Hanuabada shootings, the police commissioner, Geoffrey Vaki, has shut down the reservist unit until an investigation is complete, and ordered its officers to hand in their guns and vehicles. Mr Vaki has also promised that those responsible will face swift justice, saying there is no place for trigger happy officers. The Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, says he wants a greater Australian Federal Police presence in PNG, suggesting an expanded training programme and AFP officers being deployed as line officers. But the opposition leader, Don Polye, says the promises won't address a chronic lack of training and expertise. He says police training needs to be increased from six months to twelve months and an ombudsman established to deal with reports of police brutality.
DON POLYE: To check up on the police, keep up with their training, making sure they're delivering their law enforcement services, and [that] professional diligence is always there. And I think that would be a good body, an independent body to be a watchdog for the police force.
Don Polye says the ombudsman must have powers to prosecute and order compensation.
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