PNG commander says Hela task is huge

7:56 am on 12 January 2017

A commander for an operation to end lawlessness in Papua New Guinea's Hela province says the task is huge and won't be finished quickly.

LNG Project facility, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea

LNG Project facility, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

300 police and military personnel have been deployed to the Highlands province, which is home to the lucrative LNG project, after months of tribal fighting and a build-up of high-powered firearms.

Police operations commander, Assistant Commissioner David Manning, said the first step would be for personnel to fan across the province to try and clear it of illegal firearms.

He said work would then need to be done to reconcile warring tribes and restore confidence in the provincial government, which he said would have to involve the people of Hela.

"The success of this operation hangs all over the shoulders of the people of Hela and how we - the operation - can engage in effective and productive partnerships with them in resolving the future of the province."

Mr Manning said the security operation was only one part of returning law and order to Hela.

"Over the years the thinking of the people of Hela has been that the national government has abandoned them, has really not given much focus on addressing some of the socio-economic challenges that the people face up here, and as such there was a building resentment towards the government [at] the national, provincial and district level," he said.

Mr Manning said restoring faith in the government is vital, particularly with blatant misuse of government resources in the province, and this is a long-term issue that needs to be addressed.

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