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21 June 2014

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Sorry Keith mine was more of a general rant after observing injustice upon injustice of late.

Assistant Commissioner Eluh may indeed be one of the honourable ones (so my apologies, I didn't mean to question his individual motivations).

And Michael, I agree hope is needed!

Personally, I see reason for it. Leaders like Gary Juffa - thoughtful, eloquent, a true public servant and a radical in the very best sense of the word - and institutional heads like Sam Koim - moral to the core, and brave - are hope inspiring.

Kristian - your arguments about the police are undeniable.

But it seems that you ask us to abandon hope when we most need it.

Keith - fragmentary is the right word.

It is interesting to read the statement of the RPNGC's Assistant Commissioner on the current political crisis.

In one sense he is right the police could play a productive role diffusing tensions during this political impasse; but, sadly they have surrendered their entitlement to be treated seriously in this respect by years of impunity and rogue behaviour.

Can Thomas Eluh's statement - 'let me state that no-one is above the law. It is our duty as police officers to uphold the rule of law which is supreme without fear or favour' - really be read with anything but scepticism.

Because it is a running tradition that many of the most powerful people and entities in PNG are above the law.

While the everyday people are frequently beaten by police over the most trivial of offences, those committing the grand heists and serious violence are aided and abetted by those who are meant to uphold the law.

I can think of many examples, recent and historical, where this is true.

* When Tumbi suffered a major landslide, and Exxon stood accused of negligence, it was mobile squads who threatened protesting relatives, relatives who modestly demanded a guarantee that the government would launch an independent inquiry into the deaths of their loved ones, before they would allow the road to Exxon's Komo airport to be repaired.

* Over at Paga Hill, ATS, North Waigani, Arts Centre Settlement, Erima, residents have been threatened and brutalised by police when enforcing evictions orders, or in some cases, implementing evictions without said order. Worse still is when they are acting on behalf of business identities who have escaped police investigation, despite accumulating unenviable citations in multiple Auditor-General, and Public Accounts Committee reports.

* How many police officers were charged for human rights abuses associated with the Bougainville war, an especially important issue given that it was the mobile squads who stand accused in most historical accounts of escalating the crisis to inferno level during 1989. None to my knowledge (and we are talking of rapes, killings, assaults, etc).

* How many police officers, or senior commanders, have been investigated and reprimanded for dozens of crimes documented in reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which include the torture of children, the pack-rape of women, and village burnings? I don't know the answer to this question, but I sincerely fear zero is the answer.

People in Papua New Guinea want to have a police command they can believe in; at moments like the current one, who wouldn't want a police force they could believe in to uphold the law without fear or favour.

But such a police force needs to earn this title, through responsible policing, transparency and accountability. It needs to earn this title, by following up on Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee, and Commission of Inquiry recommendations. It needs to win the people's trust by charging the land grabbers, the fraudsters, and the corrupt businessmen, no matter how well connected they may be.

I know good police officers in PNG, and have learnt a lot from them. But too often they leave the force in frustration (understandably!), and so it is the rot rises to the top, and in their wake emerges a culture of corruption, violence and impunity.

The police could indeed help diffuse the current crisis, but they have surrendered this important role through decades of unchecked rogue behaviour.
___________

The RPNGC is a fragmentary organisation within a fragmentary country. Responsibility can be hard to assign. In the current circumstances, where he is seen to be acting with great courage to uphold the laws of the land, it might be a little uncharitable to be sceptical of the actions of Assistant Commissioner Eluh (now stood down) - KJ

Mana says - Pre Kondo!

As a distant observer of goings on in POM right now my thoughts are that while there maybe different allegiances in the senior ranks, the soldiers in general would support the wheels of justice.

I think if anyone calls in Defence Force support it would be O'Neill, continuing on his authoritarian role.

His wantoks might respond, but it would likely be against the rank and file of most, if not the majority of his fellows.

The main reason that the PM could call on the PNGDF would be if there was major civil unrest against or supported by police. That hasn't happened yet and this is still a civilian matter for the criminal justice system.

I think most reasonable PNGDF leaders can see that the only person politicising the issue is the culprit whose head is under the hammer of justice.

Let's hope Belden Namah doesn't get up to mischief and that the organisers of actions like Occupy Waigani have more in mind than just changing the PM.

Michael - Some of us are concerned about what position the PNGDF might take should conflict escalate. Comments?

Well done A/Commissioner Eluh.


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