Long road to Australian policing in PNG
An academic at the Australian National University says there are a lot of issues to sort through before Australian police can take up frontline duties in Papua New Guinea.
An academic at the Australian National University says there are a lot of issues to sort through before Australian police can take up front-line duties in Papua New Guinea.
Prior to 2005 Australian Federal Police had been deployed in an operational capacity but they were withdrawn after the PNG Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to grant them immunity.
Sinclair Dinnen, an associate professor with the ANU's Society & Governance in Melanesia Program, says this could prove a significant hindrance to having AFP officers take up front-line roles in PNG.
SINCLAIR DINNEN: Well the first thing to say is that these immunity provisions are a common feature in international policing missions. Particularly in the context of peace keeping missions which have seen an increasing number of police under the auspices of the UN, engaging in policing in conflict affected parts of the world. Foreign police will require immunity in order to protect them from possible charges that might be, that might arise in relation to their actions. The only time that Australian policing have been involved in if you like operational policing or executive policing in recent years has been in relation to the Enhanced Cooperation Program. And following international practice the international police sought and received immunity through the agreement that was made between the two governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea but some of your listeners will recall that those immunity provisions were in fact challenged in a Supreme Court hearing in Papua New Guinea and they were in fact dropped down. And that led to the departure of the police, the Australian police under the Enhanced Cooperation Programme. Because they could not continue to serve in an operational capacity at any rate without the provision of those immunities. So this would undoubtedly be an issue again where the current contingent of Australian Federal Police were to be switched from the current advisory role into an operational role.
KOROI HAWKINS: And is it even do you think the correct approach? Because the, in Solomon Islands over the years RAMSI was very keen on stepping back from front-line roles and to allow the local police force to take the front-line and do the jobs. Now this seems to be a sort of a reversal of that process. Where a PNG Police Force is asking for a external police force to take on front-line duties.
SD: Yea its a kind of different sequence if you like. The current situation is that there is a partnership agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea around policing and that involves, I think it is in the vicinity of about 70 Australian police officers who are currently in Papua New Guinea and whose role is primarily advisory. Now it would appear that, certainly from the Papua New Guinean Prime Ministers statements of late, that he himself and I assume some other members of his government, are seriously contemplating asking for inline police or those police who are already there in an advisory role to operate in an operational capacity. I think that reflects a number of things, one is that from his statement, I think that advisory or police in advisory roles are not really doing real policing and therefore it doesn't really, in his view, contribute to the development of the skills and competencies of the Papua New Guinean Police. So he is clearly of the view that having Australian police in operational roles will potentially have better outcomes in terms of developing the competencies of the Papua New Guinean Police. And I think you know beneath all the talk whether or not anything really happens remains to be seen. Because I think there are these underlying issues that the Australian police would not be prepared to work in an operational capacity unless they have the immunity that they have in other international theatres. And that in turn sort of raises concerns about the you know the legal situation in Papua New Guinea particularly on the constitution. So there are various issues that would have to be resolved prior to I think Australian policing involvement in operational policing.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: