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It’s make & more probably break time in Papua New Guinea

Oz taxpayer funds should not go to the corrupt & incompetent

Julie Bishop & Peter O'Neill (DFAT)CHRIS SHEAHAN | The Diplomat

ON Wednesday last week officers from Papua New Guinea’s police force opened fire on a crowd of university students in Port Moresby.

Conflicting reports from the media suggests that either the university students were hampering a police attempt to arrest the head of a student union or that the students were engaged by police as they were travelling to deliver a petition to PNG’s prime minister Peter O’Neill.

Conflicting reports have also been published, some stating that there have been deaths while others indicate that only injuries have been sustained. Regardless of the exact details relating to the incident there are several factors that are undeniably present.

First, tensions have been escalating recently for Peter O’Neill as a result of corruption allegations. O’Neill allegedly authorised fraudulent payments to a legal firm and a result of his efforts to delay the investigation has resulted in the disbanding of a corruption taskforce and the sacking of both the police commissioner and attorney general.

Second, the incident highlights the perils of the capability shortfall of PNG’s police force. Understrength officers with insufficient training and equipment are being managed by a force that is itself subject to widespread corruption both internal and external.

Police in PNG do not have access to modern crowd control training and have limited equipment available to them that would enable them to mitigate the risks posed by an aggressive crowd.

Without such equipment and training police in PNG have had to resort on multiple occasions to firing live ammunition into crowds in order to halt rioting. While this technique in itself is unacceptable in modern society, PNG authorities simply have no other option.

With tourists, expatriates and business now in fear of further violence, it is time for Australia to seriously address the issue of assistance programs to PNG. The programs in place too often focus on minor issues without addressing wider societal shortcomings.

Australia has already identified issues within the PNG police force, however recent events highlight that while these issues have been identified, little headway has been made in the way of progress.

PNG and Australian officials need to make more effort in increasing joint PNG-Australian police operations and Australia needs to insist that it will coordinate the distribution of funds given through aid programs to organizations and departments that are plagued with corruption.

The concept of providing funding in an effort to cease corruption cannot be successful if the funds that are provided are directly put into the hands of those that are corrupt.

Whilst it has been reported that Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop has offered Australian assistance in the unfolding situation, now is the time to ensure that the support provided is that which has a long-term effect on the ground.

The people of PNG deserve a competent government that is effectively supported by its neighbors, while the Australian people have the right to ensure that the taxpayer funds provided do not go into the hands of the corrupt.

Chris Sheahan is a former Australian Army Officer who works as a security consultant for Ludus Resources Group. Follow him on Twitter @cj_sheahan

Comments

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Lindsay F Bond

Respectfully too, and for those who truly serve, I hesitate at use of words 'deserve' and 'right', so venturing 3Rs.

Expectancy in each
founded of yore at breach,
requires learn, plan and teach
rigour, routine and reach. (3Rs)
Experience in each
past coastal fringe at beach
had little gun, law or preach,
guides votes for folk who leech.

For nations blessed with rights not only but upheld; joy to their people.
For nations yearning such delivery, not only words; 3Rs are for their tok.

Paul Oates

With due respect to Mr Sheahan, all this has been said many times before over the last few years on this site.

Everyone agrees with the problem but no one at government level seems to have any idea of what to do the fix the problem.

To my knowledge, those of us who have tried to offer our experience and previous training have been continuously spurned by those whose responsibility it is to prevent such problems arising.

Millions have been spent and continue to be spent of useless and non accountable programs like the current 'Wok Wantaim' program that has unfamiliar and inexperienced Australian police dumped in PNG without any power to do anything and no accountability for the cost of this program. A typical example in tokenism that has resisted all efforts from those who have tried to offer unpaid assistance based on their knowledge and experience.

The total rejection of any offer of assistance by PNG Attitude members is yet another example of how no government minister or departmental head is in any way prepared to accept that they could benefit in some way from ANY gratuitous offer of assistance. PNG is today suffering from this defence of personal fiefdoms on either side of the Torres Strait.

The results of the intransigence of those responsible at government level is now clearly come to pass. Will there be any change in attitude? That's the $64 question isn't it?

History would indicate that those responsible will continue to resist any practical offer of help.

There are no so blind as those who will not see but there are none so prone to ignore any challenge to their own competence when they sit in judgement over their own actions.

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