PNG police chief's jail sentence seen as deterrent
Observers see deterrent value in a jail sentence handed to Papua New Guinea's Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga.
Papua New Guinea's Police Commissioner has managed to avoid being sent to jail for now after being sentenced to seven months in prison for contempt of court.
Tom Kulunga was convicted for contempt for failing to reinstate Geoffrey Vaki as Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations after he had been suspended, on cabinet orders, in 2012.
After last Friday's surprise sentencing by the Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika the Commissioner was granted bail on K10,000 while appeals against both his conviction and sentence are pending.
Johnny Blades has more.
Transparency International Papua New Guinea says the jail sentence is a timely reminder that the law applies to everyone. TI PNG's chair, Lawrence Stephens, says the sentence reflects the seriousness of disobeying the courts, even though it is distressing for the top policeman.
LAWRENCE STEPHENS: Pretty sad to see the police force go this way; pretty sad to see that the court has to be brought in to intervene in a matter like this. It would have been good if it could have been sorted out by the police themselves. They should have had their own internal ways of sorting these issues out. But it has come to the courts. The courts have shown that they are up to the task and prepared to do what needs to be done.
Geoffrey Vaki was originally suspended over alleged disciplinary misconduct which the courts later cleared him of. However the Police Commissioner failed over a long period to ensure that the senior officer was reinstated. Our correspondent Todagia Kelola says in PNG, court orders are approached in many different ways.
TODAGIA KELOLA: There are so many lawyers who give so many interpretations as to how it's not the content or that they can work outside what the court order is. So people are saying that because the court are now seeing that their court orders are not beng complied with, so as the deputy Chief Justice he wants to send out a signal to everybody that a court order is a court order and has to be complied with.
The deputy opposition leader Sam Basil has welcomed the sentence as a deterrent to high profile officials who defy the law.
SAM BASIL: A lot of high office holders are feeling untouchable, invincible, and with that (the sentencing) it's shaking up the system and making people realise that the courts are really there for our democracy, our constitution, our country and it's one of these arms of the government that we should respect at all times. So it's really shaking up things and we fully expect the Commissioner to serve the term that he's been given by the judge. Fighting it is not good. He should serve it and it will serve as a deterrent to other constitutional office holders who may in the future think of breaching any of the court orders issued by the courts.
Sam Basil has urged the government to move swiftly to replace the Police Commissioner, noting this as an opportunity to revitalize and restore law enforcement functions of the police force to ensure impartiality.
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