PNG cabinet sacks police commissioner
The Papua New Guinea cabinet has sacked police commissioner Anthony Wagambie and blamed the Somare government for an administrative oversight that compelled it to act.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, in a media statement released this afternoon, said cabinet has advised the governor general to effect Mr Wagambie’s termination in order to avoid instability during the 2012 general election.
Mr Wagambie makes his exit after just 11 months on the job following the suspension of his predecessor Gari Baki, who was accused by the former government last year of misleading it on police operations at the US$16 billion PNG LNG Project.
“Because Mr Wagambie is due to retire in July 2012 in the middle of the general election, his appointment made by the former government is for only 14 months, contrary to the Police Act which requires that an appointment must be for four years. Hence on Mr Wagambie’s retirement a new commissioner would have to be appointed by the government during the crucial stages of the 2012 general election, disturbing command and control of the police force at this most critical time,” said the statement from Mr O’Neill’s office.
The Prime Minister denied cabinet’s decision was politically motivated and added that the appointment of a new police commissioner was critical for the smooth running of security operations during the 2012 polling period.
Tom Kulunga, a veteran police officer who has served in various capacities within the constabulary, has been appointed acting commissioner in the interim period until cabinet makes a permanent appointment.
Mr Wagambie’s sacking ironically comes 24 hours after he reportedly ordered the dismantling of the Port Moresby-based National Capital District (NCD) fraud squad, and the demoting of NCD/Central police commander Fred Sheekiot and NCD metropolitan commander Joseph Tondop.
The writs for the 2012 general election are expected to be issued in June next year with Mr Wagambie indicating in June that police needed over K188 million (A$79,392,400) to ensure trouble-free polling.