Monday May 4, 2020: 7:54pm
As usual, I will be providing an update of the security measures taken to date assist the Health Department deliver the PNG Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Press Freedom Day
Before I give the update let me take time to reflect on the World Press Freedom Day which was celebrated on 3rd May 2020 around the globe. The media plays a very important role in our society. I for one believe in a free press and in freedom of information.
I thank the media for being a partner in informing and educating our people over the years and especially recently in our combined fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
But with this freedom comes a certain degree of responsibility as well. This is very important for the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not normal news developing but a matter of life and death. It is a matter that needs a collaborative effort from all of us to address for the sake of our people.
Recently two issues arose regarding the media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic which renews my call for responsible journalism.
The first were claims that we stopped the media from reporting and that we were going to impose fines to journalists and media houses if you did not write favourably. The other was a report in the media on the misuse of COVID-19 funds.
On the first issue, we did not stop any media from reporting now nor do we intend to do so. We will also not penalise anyone should you not report to our expectations.
On the allegations on the funding, whilst this was explained in detail by the Prime Minister as well as Police Minister the media did not accept this. Instead of doing investigative work and collecting the evidence to substantiate the claim the media continued to publish or push its own agenda.
I will refrain from commenting any further on this as an audit is underway and will be released in due course for the information of the public.
I will not restrict nor stop the media from reporting. The media is an important part of society and critical to our democracy and in ensuring our people are informed.
My concern and that of government is the abuse and misuse of the social media. This is not only a concern in our country but worldwide as well. It is a very serious concern and I am aware relevant authorities like NICTA are working around the clock to manage this as with all communications regulators world-wide. I will urge you again to continue to work well with us through our Media and Public Information Unit.
We have initiated a Television and Radio Question and Answer Show produced by the NBC and aired on all radio and television networks. It is an endeavour by us to give out factual information and also to tell our people what the government is doing in a wholesome manner in addressing the COVIC 19 Pandemic.
I call upon the media to continue to uphold your profession and report without fear or favour.
National Emergency Orders
To date I have issued a total of 32 National Emergency Orders which basically assists the Joint Agency Task Force deliver the National Government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Various supporting directives have also been issued from time to time as and when the situation warranted. I would rather not issue such directives and restrict people’s movements but such is human nature and our non-compliant attitude makes it easier for the disease to spread. So in the best interest of everyone I have issued these directives and will continue to issue emergency orders necessary to keep us all safe.
Whilst we have relaxed various restrictions to allow us to return to the “new normal” compliance is an issue and I have issued directives to ensure that our health protocols are being complied with, especially in terms of public transportation and education.
For public transportation, as of Wednesday 6 May, 2020, all forms of public transport are to adhere to the notified social distancing requirements during the current National Emergency, passenger numbers are limited to 5 less than the vehicle’s licensed capacity excluding licensed taxies where passenger numbers are limited to 2 at any time.
Any breach of this emergency direction is an offence under Section 10 of the Emergency (General Provisions)(COVID-19) Act 2020, a fine of K1,000.00 can be imposed.
For education, all primary and secondary schools within PNG are to conduct inspections and complete a prescribed checklist to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to their students, staff and surrounding communities. The checklist, which includes the various health protocols, is to be collated by the Education Department and a spread sheet is to be forwarded to the National Operations Centre by the close of business on Monday 11 May 2020.
Generally the situation across the country is quiet. Our recent focus in as far as security is concerned.
Of concern is the 760 kilometer border between PNG and Indonesia. There are now 349 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours bringing the total number of infections nationwide in Indonesia to 11,192.
Fourteen more people have died of the disease in the last 24 hours Indonesia bringing the total death toll to 845.
From the statistics provided by the WHO the virus has spread to all 34 of Indonesia’s provinces. In Papua, there are 240 confirmed cases. The death toll remains at six and recoveries at 48. Whilst the daily cases curve is flattening at 2.45%, we are taking all precaution at the border areas to ensure that this does not spread over into PNG. We have a strong presence in the northern and southern border provinces as well as the Gulf province.
Repatriation of 123 PNG citizens from Jayapura will happen on either Wednesday or Thursday next week. The first lot of 39 PNG citizens will be received at the border by PNG authorities from Vanimo. The group comprises 18 illegal border crossers, 15 PNG citizens with expired visas and 6 Manus people.
Other matters on note
On Saturday 2 May, whilst travelling to Mt Hagen onto Porgera I was informed of a call from an anonymous person threatening to bomb Kagamuga Airport in Mt Hagen. The caller stated that he was not happy with the government and therefore will bomb Kagamuga Airport. The caller called back later threatening to bomb an Air Niugini aircraft that was kept overnight in Mt Hagen. The same caller also called Heli Solutions in Mt Hagen and made similar threats. The threats were treated seriously, with Kagamuga airport being immediately closed.
I issued orders for the Police Bomb Search Unit including two explosion detection dogs to travel to Mt Hagen from Port Moresby to investigate. It has since been confirmed that the threats were hoax and the incident.
I am not taking this matter lightly. It will be thoroughly investigated and the prankster made to account for his actions. Allegations of police brutality continues to be an issue. To date we have registered a total of 105 complaints against police:
- 42 walk-in complaints from members of the public since we encouraged citizens to come forward with their complaints;
- 52 have made their complaints through our toll free number 3202634; and
- 11 complaints have come through email.
Rest assured that I will have them all investigated thoroughly. Complaints if substantiated will be acted upon. In the same way, those who make malicious or false complaints will also be dealt with.
As a majority of these complaints are from the NCD I will have mobile units from the Police Internal Affairs Directorate on standby after hours from 3pm to 11pm and from 11pm to 7am each day. All calls to the toll free number 3202634 after hours will be automatically switched to the mobile unit after hours to attend to the public should they experience issues with any police unit.
In conclusion let me again reassure the people of PNG that we are committed to your health, safety and security. The COVID-19 threat is real and it is here in PNG. Let us all be vigilant and follow all the 32 National Emergency Orders issued to date.
We must also take heed of the health messages that we have been issuing since day one and that is:
- Wear face masks at all times in public places;
- Wash your hands with soap and water (Practice personal hygiene);
- Main Social Distancing (stay at least 1-2 meters way from others);
- Sneeze into your elbow; and
- Do not touch your face, eyes and nose.
- Please isolate yourself by staying at home, if you have nothing to do in other places.
Finally, my appeal to everyone is not to discriminate people who have COVID-19 or have gone for tests. All 8 Papua New Guineans who had COVID-19 have recovered.
Do not be afraid to come forward and test. Knowing your status is better than not knowing.
Call the National Operations Centre (NOC) Toll Free number 1800200 for medical attention or for more information. COVID-19 is here to stay, therefore we must all work together to ensure this does not harm us any further.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Media contact: Chief Superintendent Dominic D. Kakas, BEM, DPS
Team Leader – COVID-19 Media & Public Information Joint Agency Task Force
Mobile: 75430557: Email: email@example.com