Police Commissioner’s update on law and order & PNG COVID-19 response

Friday September 3, 2021

The purpose of this media conference is to provide:

  • An update of progress made by the RPNGC to date this calendar year;
  • An update on major police investigations undertaken recently;
  • An update on Police 2022 budget and National General Election preparations; and
  • Update on PNG’s COVID-19 responses to date.

Law & Order: Update on outstanding cases

We continue to maintain law and order throughout the country on a daily basis. There has been a recent worrying trend with an increasing number of ethnic clashes around the country and a steady increase in murders, especially with renewed fights in the Kompiam Ambum electorate, Hela Province and within the National Capital District.

There has been a lot of criticisms made regarding outstanding criminal cases including a number of murders, and the burning of the Air Niugini aircraft in Mendi. Concerns have also been raised about our handling of the Papa Lealea cocaine case which I will address in this media conference.

I want to assure everyone that police investigations into numerous cases including the murders of former Simbu leader Peter Waieng, Fred Konga and Geoffrey Bull are still continuing.

For the Late Peter Waieng homicide there are a lot of conspiracy theories which continue to fuel unending speculations for further investigations. Until there is verifiable evidence for police to pursue these conspiracy theories, it will serve no purpose to waste time and resources.

However, two arrests have been made in relation to this murder case. Two persons have been tried, convicted and sentenced to 25 and 13 years each for the murder of Late Peter Waieng.

The Criminal Investigation Division in the NCD is continuing with investigations into the Fred Konga homicide. The investigation was previously delayed for two reasons: the first being allegations of police involvement in the homicide and secondly because critical persons of interest required for interview were threatened and or feared for their lives and had gone into hiding.

As for the Jeffrey Bull homicide, one suspect was arrested and charged for wilful murder. While on remand the suspect escaped in July 2020. He was recaptured and arrested and charged for escaping from lawful custody and is remanded in Bomana awaiting trial on charges of wilful murder and escaping from lawful custody.

From preliminary assessment, evidence in the 2017 killing of two policemen in Wabag is linked to the Kandep election chaos which continued into a petition that resulted in the recent recount declaring Don Polye as Member for Kandep Open Electorate.

The investigation file is held pending till date for two reasons:

1. Firstly, the volatile situation in Kandep did not allow for investigators to safely investigate. Witnesses are sketchy and unwilling and most have gone into hiding; and

2. Secondly, the continuing petition related court proceedings and assessment of the situation required that investigation into the matter could contribute towards adding chaos to the already volatile situation and highly probable that police could be accused of siding with either party leading to confrontation and further blood-shed. Now that the Kandep petition has been settled assessment is being made whether to resurrect the investigation or not.

For the burning of the Air Niugini aircraft in Mendi, police investigations were undertaken against a political, tribal and ethnic backdrop that could plunge the capital of the Southern Highlands into anarchy, chaos and lawlessness. We successfully made 11 arrests and all suspects were to stand trial in Kundiawa for arson and wilful destruction. However, as court proceedings progressed the prosecutor based in Kundiawa suddenly suffered illness and died within hours. The case was then registered in Goroka to curtail the potential for foul play.

However, for whatever reason and without our knowledge their trial was moved to Mt Hagen where the case was dismissed. All suspects were released following the dismissal. We are assessing whether to pursue and make re-arrest given the current political developments as our actions may be seen to be for or against major players in Southern Highlands politics, and could serve as the catalyst for further violence in the 2022 National General Elections.

With support of our AFP partners we have reviewed the file and while there is some more evidence to collect for the re-arrest of the released suspects as well as others identified as principal suspects, our capacity has been limited by a number of factors including funding constraints and manpower issues.

As for the Papa Lealea drug case, our existing laws were inadequate and we could not effectively prosecute the case here in PNG to obtain the maximum penalty. We therefore had to send the suspects and the drugs to Australia where the laws were quite strong. The Government is currently taking measures to amend our legislation so that we can effectively deal with such transnational crimes.

For the Constabulary we are strengthening our processes and systems to effectively detect and prosecute such crimes being committed on our soil. Also, since July 2020 we have made five arrests in relation to the Papa Lealea case. All five have been served with several criminal charges and the matters are now in the lower courts.

In addition, the pilot has been charged by the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority and found guilty for the charges under Civil Aviation laws. He was found guilty and imposed with a fine of more than K30,000.00 or imprisonment.

Further, recently in 2021, Customs have come on board and have arrested the pilot for importing electronic items including money in Australian Dollars into PNG and attempting to export items from PNG from PNG in breach of the PNG Customs Act. The files have been served and the matters are in the courts.

In so far as the test results of the drugs that were remitted to Australia are concerned, we are grateful that our Department of Attorney General and Justice, and our Australian counterparts who assisted through the Mutual Assistance Program have the drugs tested with positive results and reports returned to be included as exhibit.

Policing the Police Task Force Team

Due to the ever-increasing instances of police assaults, brutality and illegal conduct especially within the National Capital District I have decided to re-establish the Policing the Police Task Force Team to immediately investigate and take disciplinary and criminal action against members of the Police Force.

The Policing the Police Task Force Team or PPTFT for short will come directly under the Office of the Commissioner of Police and will be headed by Director Internal Affairs Superintendent Alpha Emil as Operations Commander. He will be assisted by Inspector Apollos Terry as Deputy Operations Commander. A team of police investigators, both from CID and Internal affairs, with support units from the Public Safety and Special Services Division will make up this team. They will be given set terms of reference and three months to clean up the NCD. Following that the concept will be rolled out into other provinces as well.

The PPTFT will bring to life the “one strike you are out” policy for members of the Constabulary. For far too long criminals have been hiding within the force in police uniform. The PPTFT will flush them out and if warranted, prosecute and send them to jail. Of course the system will be fair and members alleged to have come into conflict with the law will be given all opportunities to defend themselves.

Details of the PPTFT including contact details and office location will be published soon in the media for members of the public to call, email, WhatsApp or email to register their complaints.

As Commissioner I assure all members of the public that all your complaints will be investigated and swift action taken. For and in the interest of national security policemen who are ill-disciplined or have committed criminal offences should be immediately removed from the Constabulary and sent to jail.

Administrative priorities and reforms

On the administrative front of the Constabulary a number of priority activities and reforms have been undertaken this year. These include:

  • Completion of budget submissions for both the 2022 National General Elections and 2022 Budget Estimates. For the NGE 2022 the RPNGC is seeking a total budget of K194.1m of which K47.6m is for allowances. The 2022 Budget Estimates total is K381.2m. Approximately K282m is for Personnel Emoluments (PE); K70.2m for Good and Services; and K28.6m in Development Budget;
  • The RPNGC Retirement Exercise is on target with a total of 548 personnel due to be retired from the Constabulary by the end of this month and paid out commencing pay 21.
  • In 2020 the RPNGC introduced the payment of final entitlements for retirees through the payroll, a process and system which has been applauded by the Department of Personnel Management (DPM) and will now be used as a best practice benchmark within the broader public service.
  • The work on implementing National Gazette No. G279 on the ‘Abolishment of the Department of Police and the Office of the Secretary for the Department of Police’ is progressing.
  • The Governor General has signed the statutory instrument for the Creation of the Police Administration Wing.
  • The Salaries and Conditions Monitoring Committee (SCMC) has also approved the payment of Police Service Allowances to Administrative Staff. A recent meeting between the RPNGC HR Team and Department of Personnel Management (DPM) resolved to work towards making these payments by pay 20 of this year.
  • Payroll Monitoring system was put in place at the back end of 2019. The purpose of which was to reduce anomalies within the payroll. When this exercise first commenced the estimated over spend on payroll was K33m by end of 2019. As of pay 17, 2021 the estimated over-spend has been reduced by 36%.
  • The Police Promotions Board has concluded its deliberations. The Board will present its report to the Office of the Commissioner towards the end of next week.
  • Reservists call out for applications closed 14 July 2021. Approximately 16,000 applications were received of which 6,000 of those were electronic and 10,000 hard copy applications. Training of Reservists to occur November 2021 – March 2022. The draft Reservist policy is currently being developed. MOU’s between RPNGC and Provincial governments will commence when the Reservist Policy is approved;
  • For transport, the Constabulary switched to a single fuel supplier which has significantly reduced fuel costs. We introduced the RFID system in NCD. This will be reviewed towards the end of year before it is rolled out in other provinces.
  • We have closed the tender for vehicle servicing and maintenance. Evaluation committee will deliberate on bids in the next week. This is intended to significantly reduce costs and ensure quality service for the RPNGC fleets going forward.

2022 National General Elections

Planning for the joint security operations (RPNGC, PNGDF, CIS) commenced as soon as Warning Orders came out on 2 August 2021.

The Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for the 2022 National General Elections Operations was presented to the Office of the Commissioner this week and approved. The General Orders are being drafted.

There are three parts to the joint security operations:

  • Pre-national election operations;
  • Election proper; and
  • Post national election operations.

The RPNGC is negotiating with the Treasury to release funds to start preparing for the first phase of the operation, which includes intelligence gathering, community policing, media and publication, and pre-deployment training of the integrated joint security forces.

We currently have a strength of 6,700 police personnel nationwide. There are currently 548 members retiring this year as they have reached the compulsory retirement age so we will have just over 6,000 manpower strength by December.

However, we expect to boost our number to 10,000 with the engagement of reserve police members and the inclusion of PNG Defence Force and Correctional Services personnel.

We do not have the security personnel nor the resources to adequately cover the nation so we will be relying a lot on intelligence gathering, a massive media campaign and community policing. It is through intelligence gathering we will identify and target potential threats. It is through intelligence gathering that will determine the distribution of our security personnel.

We expect the worst but as usual bank on the people’s goodwill and genuine desire to have a safe and secure 2022 National General Elections nationwide.

PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response to date

On a global scale Papua New Guinea has done exceptionally well in its COVID-19 response to date. In fact in some area we were the first and this includes the setting up of the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force, the establishment of the National Control Centre, the declaration of the State of Emergency, a 14-day nation-wide lock-down upon the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case, and the enacting of the National Pandemic Act 2020.

The intention of this global pandemic treaty is to ensure that countries will now have a framework that will help countries better prepare and address any future health pandemics.

Over the last one year and six months of the national pandemic response we as a government have come to realise the following:

  • Health system have limited capacity to cope with widespread community transmission – not enough health workers, insufficient hospital beds and very limited critical care (ICU) facilities;
  • Capacity disparity within the provinces and their ability to coordinate effectively through their existing circumstances;
  • The traditional and cultural perceptions by Papua New Guineans in rural communities, compounded with illiteracy and lack of awareness has created an additional layer of challenge for compliance to testing and isolation;
  • The stigma associated with public perception towards the first pronounced cases, and how those were linked to drastic measures undertaken by the government during the earliest phases of the response created a country wide personal reservation towards the need for medical attention, as such creating more challenges for the medical front liners around the country;
  • Low rate of negative returning results, fast rate of recoveries has also created anxiety amongst society on the seriousness of the issue;
  • The social and economic impact of the pandemic will further put vulnerable populations at risk of secondary emergencies (vaccine-preventable diseases, food security poor economic and governance processes); and
  • Vaccination is key to helping PNG out of the current pandemic. This is a similar strategy in all other countries.
  • The lessons from the COVID-19 operations have demonstrated that the following issues will need improvement:
  • PNG’s law and order enforcement capacity must be improved in order to address 21st century challenges including managing emergencies in any space including health;
  • Doctor/patient ratio needs improvement around the country and the government should seriously look into strengthening this area;
  • Immigrations laws and regulations will need more enforcement in order to instil compliance;
  • PNG’s labour laws and policy frameworks needs to be improved so that jobs that can be done in PNG should not be externally put up for foreign labour;
  • Compliance in PNG is a main challenge not only health but in other areas where the COVID-19 operations overlap into;
  • Vaccination is key to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and it will have a broader impact on PNG’s current health status with regards to COVID-19 immunity and how we interface with other countries;
  • The severity of the pandemic around the globe has further caused countries to put up their own expectations of what they need to do and how they are going to engage with countries around them. This is a challenge that needs to be realized by the government.

In November this year we intend to hold a national summit on the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response which will see participation from key partners involved in our response. The intention of the summit is to bring everyone together to look at the PNG response to date and if we could have done it better.

This summit will not only determine the shape, size and form of the PNG response to COVID-19 in 2022 and beyond, but we expect that gaining from the lessons learnt we can establish set protocols to deal with any and all future pandemics.

David P. Manning, MBE, DPS, OStJ, QPM
Commissioner of Police & Controller

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