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Papua New Guinea

Who the PM blames for such horrific violence

It’s no breaking news that the law and order situation in Papua New Guinea – even in its capital – is spiralling out of control.

What is surprising however, is that Prime Minister James Marape, despite ignoring the problem over a long time period, has taken no responsibility, but instead has placed the blame firmly on the shoulders of the country’s police commissioner David Manning.

Mr Marape has used parliament to call out Mr Manning and demand he do what he was appointed to do and not await instructions from the Government.

The out of control law and order situation was demonstrated by the recently held elections in July. People showed no respect for law and order as many were killed, properties were destroyed and many Papua New Guineans displaced from their homes.

The situation is not centralised to any one location but spread through PNG sparing no one, not even women and children. The nation’s capital has not been exempted as daring robberies and ethnic clashes continue to happen on a daily basis.

Commissioner David Manning (left) with the newly appointed Internal Security Minister Peter Tsiamalili Jnr (right). Picture Royal PNG Constabulary
Commissioner David Manning (L) with the newly appointed Internal Security Minister Peter Tsiamalili Jnr (R). Picture: Royal PNG Constabulary

Mr Marape said the government has enacted appropriate legislation and appointed Mr Manning to lead the enforcement agency.

“Yes, it is our responsibility to equip police with resources, but the police commissioner (Manning) must step up and do his job,” he said in parliament.

“We don’t need to be calling (him) to address law and order issues. It is his job, his day job, his night job. He should be doing his job, and addressing these law and order issues and making arrests.”

Mr Marape was responding to a question raised by the Deputy Opposition Leader Douglas Tomuriesa as to why no arrests were made as ethnic clashes were ongoing in Port Moresby.

“Port Moresby is no longer safe. Citizens are murdered, mothers are robbed on the streets,” Mr Tomurisea told the parliament.

“Last week, we saw cars loaded with an ethnic group, armed, and going to Porebada to fight with the locals.”

Is the PNG police capable to handling the law and order situation in PNG. Picture Royal Police Constabulary
Is the PNG police capable of handling the law and order situation in PNG? Picture: Royal Police Constabulary

PNG is notorious for its high crime rates and subsequently dangerous travelling and living conditions. The major cities of Port Moresby, Mount Hagen and Lae, in particular, have become hotspots for many forms of violent, criminal behaviour including, but not limited to theft, carjacking, breaking and entering, domestic violence, sexual assault, and murder.

Manpower and resources are a major worry for the PNG police. There are not enough numbers in the police who also don’t have the tools to take on gangs and tribes no longer wielding spears and bow and arrows as primary weapons, but automatic weapons.

Mr Marape said the police and correctional services had been merged under the Internal Security Ministry for that reason.

“We are also starting recruitment to increase police manpower to 10,000, and we will be restructuring the police force,” he said.

The population of PNG is estimated at a little over nine million, with this the ratio of a police officer to a civilian is one to 9,000.

Police caught in the middle of a gunfight in Mnedi. Picture Royal PNG Constabulary
Police caught in the middle of a gunfight in Mendi. Picture: Royal PNG Constabulary

Animosity between local tribes and clans is also responsible for the presence of crime occurring as a result of civil unrest. Port Moresby and Lae, as well as the Southern Highlands Province, are common areas in Papua New Guinea for tensions between ethnic groups.

Organised crime is also widespread throughout PNG and these gangs are not only involved in violence but play a significant role in non-violent or organised crime.

PNG acts as a large domestic market for high-quality marijuana, as well as an international thoroughfare for numerous other illicit drugs.

The central location of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific serves as a common ground between Indonesia and Australia. Although drug trafficking in this sense is not directly regarding violence, it is often a catalyst of feuds between cultural groups.

While drug trafficking is considered the foundation of organised crime, money laundering and cybercrime still occur. Corruption is rampant throughout PNG.

In the Corruption Perception Index undertaken by Transparency International, PNG scored 28 out of 100, classifying the country as “highly corrupt”.

Mr Manning has been approached for a comment to explain how best the police can deal with the law and order situation, however he is yet to respond.

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