24 Mar 2003

PNG soldiers to be given police powers in Southern Highlands election

4:22 pm on 24 March 2003

Papua New Guinea defence force soldiers sent to the Southern Highlands province during the elections have been given police powers.

The acting police commissioner, Geoffrey Baki, says troops in the Southern Highlands have been given special constable status to assist police in maintaining law and order.

Campaigning for six seats is underway for the election in late April after last year's elections were declared void because of violence and fraud.

Mr Baki says the army is part of a contingent of over 2-thousand security personnel including 50 correctional services officers who have also been made special constables.

He says security will be tight to ensure that lives and properties are protected during the fresh elections.

"The defence force automatically appointed to the special constables rank they will be responsible for providing security cover in terms of either stationary patrols or mobile patrols into all the polling locations they will be also monitoring what's going on in the resource project areas and also government installations as and when there is a threat. The objective is to basically provide that secure environment for people to cast their vote"

Mr Vaki says the first contingent of defence troops is scheduled to arrive in Mendi by the end of this week.