11 Oct 2017

PNG police hierarchy urged to address divisions

5:43 pm on 11 October 2017

A former top policeman in Papua New Guinea has called for the constabulary to act quickly to end instability within the force's capital command.

Papua New Guinea police.

Papua New Guinea police. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

This comes as the National Capital District's metropolitan police commander was suspended over alleged disciplinary offences.

Benjamin Turi's suspension came days after he publicly called for the removal of the Capital's central commander, Sylvester Kalaut.

The two men have had communication problems, according to Mr Turi's predecessor as metropolitan commander, Andy Bawa.

Mr Bawa said for the sake of a unified police rank and file, divisions in the leadership must be urgently addressed.

"The police hierarchy needs to stabilise this quickly and get some very senior, respectable, experienced officers to take on the command, and the command needs to get together, work together for one purpose, and that is to serve the city residents."

Mr Turi's push for Assistant Commissioner Kalaut to be removed from his post last week was in relation to the apparent destruction of evidence in a case of alleged misuse of election funds.

A suspected arson incident last thursday at the Boroko police station in the capital was reported by local media to have destroyed evidence in a case against a National Capital District returning officer in the recent election.

The returning officer, Terence Hetinu, was caught by police with 180,000 kina in cash during polling in late June.

Mr Turi raised suspicion over Mr Kalaut's actions around the arson incident, which came shortly before this week's planned audit of police operations during the election.

Political interference casts shadow

Benjamin Turi, under whose command police officer scontroversially opened fire at protesting university students last year, has been a lightening rod for controversy in the force.

He tried to sideline Mr Bawa from the police early last year by accusing him of misuse of funds allocated for security during the 2015 Pacific Games, a matter which went to court.

The case was subsequently dismissed from court due to lack of evidence, and Mr Bawa, who insisted he provided acquittal reports for use of the funds, is now taking a civil suit against Mr Turi.

Mr Bawa stood in this year's general election and came close to winning the important National Capital District governor's seat. Reflecting as an ordinary citizen on the ongoing divisions in the police force hierarchy, he said it was not good for morale within the constabulary.

PNG's police force is under-resourced and faces a complex set of security challenges that outsiders may not always appreciate. The need for unity and discipline among all police was therefore paramount, according to Mr Bawa, who believed in the long term the constabulary would improve.

But he said the ongoing divisions and instability within the upper echelons of the force undermined public faith in police. The hand of political interference was never far from the problems either.

"That's one of the biggest problems, that the police force is being politicised by politicians, " said Mr Bawa.

"So they're not allowed and given the independence to run the police force. If they can be allowed to be run independently, without undue influence, then we won't be having the problems that we continue to face."

Transfers

Shortly after Mr Bawa's comments, the PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki issued transfer directives for 26 senior police officers from around the country.

PNG Police Commissioner, Gary Baki.

PNG Police Commissioner, Gary Baki. Photo: EMTV

A release from Mr Baki's office said he ordered the transfers "for operational expediency in light of current internal command and control issues", and matters arising from the 2017 National General Elections".

Among the transferrals, Mr Turi has been moved to the Highlands Eastern End area where he will be Deputy Commander.

Taking over his position as metropolitan commander in the capital will be Perou N'dranou, who until now has been Commandant at the Bomana Training College.

Assistant Commissioner Kalaut has been moved to the Human Resources division.

He will be replaced in the Capital central command role by Donald Yamasombi who had been Divisional Commander Border.

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