PNG law and order issues highlighted

Papua New Guinea continues to face daunting challenges in promoting safe and secure environment for business investment and socially secure environment for its citizens to live without fear of any potential crime.

The government has law and order as the fourth priority in providing service delivery grants-this is after education, health and infrastructure.

The Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC), perceived by the citizens as the constitutionally empowered law enforcer and trained crime stopper has however over the years received much despise from citizens.

There has been criticism against police about brutality and unprofessional conduct- basically a total loss of most ethical approach to accepted policing standards.

The media is often splashed with stories of police brutality and crimes committed by the citizens.

And as we all lament on our law and order challenges, we ask so “Whose Responsibility Is It?”

There can’t be a direct answer obtained for this discourse but taking the first step to having discussions and finding a solution is a commended step.

In early March a group of panelists who included Allan Scott- the Australian Federal Police (AFP) team leader in the country, David Conn of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, Madang Provincial Police Commander Superintendent Sylvester Kalaut, Walis Yakam from the Central Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC) and renowned blogger Martyn Namorong discussed law and order challenges and attempted to narrow down on who should cop the responsibility for the many challenges the country faces today.

The panelists appeared in a TV Show Session “Tanim Graun”-sponsored by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It is aimed at promoting dialogue on development challenges and opportunities and gauzing suggestions on how citizens can help.

Last year, the World Bank released a report reflecting that crime or non-existence of law and order hampers development and in PNG, businesses on average lost K 89,000 to crime every year.

The report also said 700 serious crimes are committed annually.

Allan Scott and his 73 Australian police officers were in the country for the last 18 months based at police stations in Port Moresby and Lae.

He said there was evidence of tension between citizens and police because of breakdown of trust.

“I have seen that in a lot of places I visit,” he said.

Scott said the government invited them to work with the PNG police because there were fundamental issues to be addressed.

Walis Yakam from the CIMC also raised similar sentiments on behalf of females suffering from violence by their husbands.

“The general situation is that law enforcement is not there,” she said.

“It’s a development issue in PNG. The major issue is lack of trust from law enforcers.”

Yakam said front desk officers at organisations do not feel they would get help and support at police stations after enduring violence at home exerted by their husbands.

She said organizations spent valuable revenue generating time and effort to support their staff and lose making money for the company.

David Conn from the Chamber of Commerce could not agree more with Yakam, stressing that the business community lacks trust from police.

Conn has a Scottish background and has been in the country for the last 36 years.

“You go through a road block in Port Moresby and policemen are pulling over expatriate women and our young women and harassing them,” he said.

“In the last year I have to go to the police station three times to get my staff out of trouble because the policeman right in the middle of Port Moresby think right here is an easy target and took the license off them and told them to go to the police station.”

“We will produce the job if the law and order is there,” Conn decried.

Madang Provincial Police Commander Sylvester Kalaut meanwhile was blunt saying police could not break the law to enforce the law but he stressed law and order was everyone’s responsibility.

“We must not say that it’s a function that police is solely responsible.”

“It is an issue where the community at large must stand together and find a better solution and approach issues at community level,” Kalaut who was the former police commander in East New Britain said.

Kalaut is a proactive community policing strategist.

He said policemen were entrusted by the community to be officers because they have these powers when they swore oaths to be policemen and women serving the people of Papua New Guinea.

“We derive these powers from our people,” he said.

“We must go back to the people and they will work with us and we will work with them so that we have a peaceful community. And by working with them we will reduce criticisms and issues relating to police brutality and all these other unlawful activities that our citizens complain about.”

Scott said police officers were to serve the community, which is the fundamental principle of policing.

“In fact the father of modern policing Sir Robert Peel said these words many many years ago that police are the community and community are the police,” he said.

“That principle is as relevant today as it was then and I think there were some shifting here in Papua New Guinea and a lack of connection to the community.”

“There shouldn’t be a separate community from police, they are together,” Scott said.

He said the AFP officers are working with their PNG counterparts right at the front office areas interact with the community and developing custody management systems.

“We have been doing a lot of work around protecting the human lives of Papua New Guineans, to ensure that if they are in custody of police, there are proper processes applied in dealing with them,” he said.

Scott said there is an exciting part in their partnership program to promote law and order in the country.

He said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Police Minister Robert Atiyafa have asked the AFP to have a more active role in the recruit training because if the country was to see good police officers and improved law and order this was where it had to begin.

“You have to have foundational skills for new recruits and the and the government has asked us to intervene and produce a new package of the type of recruits that has all these principles.”

“We are teaching constitutional rights and guarantees, human rights, we are teaching gender equality, we are talking about the rule of law and the proper roles of the police force.”

Scott said recruits were now undergoing training for 26 weeks and should pass out in August.

“We are really confident that this is a step in the right direction,” he said.

“We are confident that they will have a new understanding of their role, a new understanding of the relationship with community and what community policing is all about.”

He said they would also do a lot of work around recruitment.

Australian Federal Police team leader ACP Allan Scott (l) and Madang Provincial Police Commander Sylvester Kalaut
Australian Federal Police team leader ACP Allan Scott (l) and Madang Provincial Police Commander Sylvester Kalaut

“The police minister asked us to look at how police are recruited and we found that there were some practices there that needed to be tidied up and we recommended that some work be outsourced to a proper professional recruitment agency that can test the veracity of the application, that we must have proper assessment centers, administer aptitude testing so we are actually getting people into the police force that have an aptitude for it, that understand what its going to be about and can do the training at Bomana Police College.”

Scott added that these kind of graduates joining the police force can have some effect on changing the culture because essentially that was what citizens were talking about.

“Changing the culture to a more service delivery and more community focused,” he said.

Kalaut said building relationships in policing was critical in that police act on information.

He said police must be proactive rather than reactive and providing adequate training on emotional intelligence was critical as police when in operation are under a lot of pressure and the person must be able to control his emotions on when to pull the trigger or not.

Kalaut who has set up an effective family and sexual violence office in Madang was affirmative that if everyone had respect for each other, there will be less crime.

A man, he said would not rape a woman.

He also appealed that there are many non-compliant persons who commit offences like speeding on the road under liquor or driving through traffic lights when they were not supposed to.

Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce CEO David Conn said getting a lot of people employed will reduce law and order problems and the development of Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) to employ people was a step in the right direction.

Blogger Martyn Namorong believes post the LNG construction phase there were many jobs available but many of us were too aspirational, wanting jobs at executive levels.

Blogger Martyn Namorong (l) speaking to NBC's Tribe FM
Blogger Martyn Namorong (l) speaking to NBC’s Tribe FM

He however suggested that social and cultural dynamics drive all the law and order challenges and if one were to deal with it in an area, the person must be culturally sensitized.

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