BY IAN McPHEDRAN
SENIOR AUSTRALIAN Federal Police advisers will be deployed to Papua New Guinea prior to elections next June as fears rise that the polls will be the most violent on record.
The Australian Defence Force is also drawing up contingency plans for an emergency evacuation of up to 15,000 expatriate Australians in case our nearest neighbour descends into anarchy following what are expected to be the most tense national elections since independence in 1975.
Amphibious ships, RAAF transport planes and army Black Hawk choppers will be on stand-by for the event both at sea and in Townsville.
PNG politics is rife with corruption, but well-placed sources have warned that a massive increase in gun imports from neighbouring Indonesia and from other sources could turn the 2012 poll into a "shoot-out".
According to one senior source some parts of the central highlands are bristling with weapons including high-powered M-16 assault rifles, pistols, shotguns and even hand grenades.
"There is a real concern about the potential for violence, especially in the highlands, during the elections next June," the source said.
Weapons come across the isolated border with West Papua on foot or in vessels plying the waters between Indonesia and PNG ports such as Madang and Lae.
Young men walk for days through the jungle carrying bags of marijuana that are traded for guns inside Indonesian West Papua.
Plans to send a fresh contingent of AFP advisers to PNG prior to the poll were discussed by prime minister Julia Gillard and PNG leader Peter O'Neill, the son of an Australian magistrate, during talks in Canberra two weeks ago.
Source: Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 31 October