24 Dec 2002

Anger over light sentences for PNG mutineers

12:31 pm on 24 December 2002

The Papua New Guinea army officer who led the campaign to put down a mutiny at Moem Barracks in Wewak earlier this year has expressed anger at what he says are the light sentences handed down.

Last week 24 soldiers were convicted of mutiny and sentenced to jail for terms ranging from 15 years to nine months, after an armed take over of part of the barracks for two weeks last March.

The soldiers had wanted the removal of the Morauta Government and the end of a retrenchment exercise in the army.

The mutineers lawyers argued that nine months jail,- the time they have already been incarcerated - be the maximum term given, while the prosecution said the mutineers should have been executed.

Lieutenant Colonel Willie Janguan, the commander at the Barracks, agrees, and says he almost wishes they had killed the soldiers when the mutiny was put down.

As our correspondent Peter Niesi reports, Colonel Janguan says the light sentences are a Christian decision not a military decision.

"Colonel Janguan is a very worldy wise man, and he said we've been watched by the Commmonwealth, and there've been too many problems with the PNGDF, and given that these guys had actually shown no sign of laying down their arms, and had to be put down in a military operation, the maximum penalty is what they should have got"