BY TREVOR FREESTONE
I am not trying to receive any credit for anything I have done but am more concerned at the complete lack of meaningful action taken by politicians, AusAID officials and media outlets which should be so supportive of rural police in PNG. The police are desperate to receive support from their own government and from Australia. Action is needed - tf
IN 2008 I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH to visit Watabung as its special guest to help officially open a new power supply at the school. At this ceremony the police made a speech which I detail here.
The police at Watabung are dedicated officers working under extremely poor conditions. They had no vehicle based at Watabung even though they were expected to patrol the Western side of the Daulo Pass.
They were constantly criticised by the magistrate in Goroka for handwriting their court reports. Their police station built out of mud bricks in the 1960 was falling apart. Their housing was very poor.
Fortunately I was able to assist by taking them to Goroka where we were able to buy a typewriter so court reports could be prepared in a professional manner. We could not buy an electric typewriter as the Police hierarchy told us they did not have the funds to connect the police station to the new power supply.
Here is part of the policeman’s speech, which I have translated into English.
I would like to make three points.
Number one. I would like to thank Trevor for giving me something to help me with my work.
Number two. Trevor you spent a lot of time at Watabung and understand our position so we would like you to report the current situation of Watabung to the Australian Government. Tell them not to forget us. Trevor you can be the bridge maker between us and the Australian government.
Number three. The PNG government has received huge amounts of money in Port Moresby, but we don’t receive the services we need.
The police at Asaro also told me similar stories of their hardships.
On returning to Australia I have been writing to all the prime ministers, foreign ministers, local members and other politicians as well as AusAID. The response is mostly the same: ‘Thank you for your communication which will be passed onto the named recipient for action.’ Of course this is as far as things go.
Similarly I have sent stories and videos to the major news media who have shown no interest whatsoever. My requests to the Australian government and AusAID for assistance for the police always brings the response that their problems are a matter for the PNG Law and Justice sector and is outside the aid program.
Julie Bishop has responded to my communications promising to take some positive action. She also seems to be all talk for she has never made a big issue of the problems in parliament. Something I would have thought would have been ideal for someone in opposition.
I guess the reason is that the coalition when in power followed the same path as the present Labor Party and any criticism may backfire.