23 Aug 2013

New Zealand looking to extend role of police in Bougainville

5:21 pm on 23 August 2013

The New Zealand police mission to the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville is set to be renewed at the end of the year, when the current arrangement concludes.

The foreign minister Murray McCully visited Buka last week, where 7 New Zealand officers are training over 300 police.

The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Dr John Momis, has requested more help, and rejected Papua New Guinea's police force.

Alex Perrottet was in Bougainville.

Murray McCully and his delegation were honoured at the Buka airport in the open rain. The New Zealand police are training the community auxiliary police, and Dr John Momis says he wants them to continue to train the regular police service. Speaking in Port Moresby, he said he doesn't want police sent from there.

"JOHN MOMIS: Well the training they get is not... They are not trained to ... Remember the Bougainville police is called the Bougainville police service, not Bougainville police force. Police here [Port Moresby] are trained to bash heads and kill people and so on and so forth, not to serve."

First Constable Irene Semoso is the officer in charge of training, and she says police have learnt discipline and community relations, but they could be housed better.

IRENE SEMOSO: We don't have much accommodation. We need to accommodate members so that everybody will co-operate so that the law and order problem will be solved. They have a place to stay but it's only a few that are accommodated, and a few are coming from the villages.

There's a number of women police officers being trained and co-ordinator Constable Reginald Sogen says they are essential.

REGINALD SOGEN: There are lots of important ways that policewomen, because when policeman goes and there is no policewoman there, we do things differently you know. But with policewomen present, we can control our force. Stop us from hitting people.

Constable Sogen says policewomen are also better suited to dealing with female offenders. He says the main problems overall are armed robberies and domestic violence fuelled by drugs and alcohol. He says it can be difficult to disarm criminals, as police don't carry weapons, but the best weapon they have is their mouth. The New Zealand team leader, Detective Sergeant Rob Lemoto, says he sits with the leaders and helps them improve their management skills and to separate village issues from the job of professional policing.

ROB LEMOTO: Good leadership helps to breed a strong organisation, and they also know what they used to have when the city was one of the biggest cities in the Pacific and they want to get back there. So it's just helping them to support the community and to become a stronger country.

Murray McCully has pledged more help, but he hasn't yet worked out what exactly he will commit to.

MURRAY McCULLY: We're thinking not about if we'll continue, but about how. I suspect the contribution that's been called for now they want us in one or two places we are not already and we're certainly open to that.

As Bougainville prepares to decide on its independence in a few years' time, local police say they realise law and order needs to be under their own control first, and they hope that's not too far away.