Is it a case of being 'out of sight out of mind' or is PNG Police in a crisis state?

29/10/2011 23:57

Is it a case of being ‘out of sight out of mind’ for a Papua New Guinea (PNG) arm of government or are these signs of a police constabulary in crisis?  

Last month over 5000 Papua New Guineans and sympathisers abroad signed up to a Facebook group to condemn the wanton abuse that ex-policeman Simon Bernard continued to subject his wife Joy Wartovo to, and to pressure the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC) to bring their former colleague to justice.

Bernard’s ability to evade arrest is reaching Robin Hood-like proportions, only this time it is not a good but a bad guy who is on the run from a 5250-strong police force.  The failure by police to progress the case is farcical and raises questions about whether the government is serious about addressing gender violence.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill recently rubbed shoulders with two powerful women, in Australian colleague Julia Gillard and the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Western Australia. It is a pity Gillard and Her Majesty are not among the Facebook group’s esteemed membership as they would have been moved by the anger and frustration expressed in the social media’s discussion threads. An online petition addressed to the PNG government which demands action against domestic violence is 98 per cent complete.

The case of the missing PNG Institute of Medical Research (IMR) scientists in the waters of West New Britain province is another symptom of a constabulary in crisis. One would have expected all provincial police operations to have immediate access to resources to enable them to respond effectively to crime and emergencies.

The appeal by West New Britain police recently for funding to hunt down wanted criminal Don Aka, whom they suspect is holding the IMR scientists for ransom, confirms the sorry state-of-affairs in a disciplinary force choked by the lack of government support and direction.

But these are not new problems. Most of them were highlighted by the 2004 Report of the RPNGC Administrative Review Committee commissioned by then Internal Security Minister Bire Kimisopa. Seven years after the publishing of the report and it appears to be business-as-usual for the government. It might be a good idea to bring the current Internal Security Minister up to speed on the report’s recommendations relating to ‘effective police operations’:

“Urgent action is required to establish an effective foundation for effective police operations. In particular, action is required to rehabilitate the current Intelligence processes and systems and to develop an effective, fully staffed NCD Operations Centre that can respond effectively and quickly to community needs and expectations, and be established as a model for regional operations centres.”

There is also a sub-section titled ‘police on hire’ in the report detailing how the constabulary only respond to incidents after they “receive resources” from the public including the private sector. Current PNG acting police commissioner Tom Kulunga might want to get his deputy Fred Yakasa to dig out the report as they investigate allegations that Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau recently financed a police crackdown on protesting villagers in East New Britain province’s Pomio district.