PNG Post-Courier: Time to consider piracy as a serious issue

Alleged Asian pirates intercepted and arrested by a PNG Navy boat in 2020
FLASHBACK: Alleged Asian pirates intercepted and arrested by a PNG Navy boat between Kavieng and Manus in August 2020. Image: PNG Navy/EMTV

EDITORIAL: By the PNG Post-Courier

Ten years ago, a dinghy carrying 5 medical research institute scientists disappeared in Papua New Guinea’s West New Britain waters.

The scientists — 3 men and 2 women — have never been found.

A few weeks ago, the PNG Medical Research Institute finally closed its book on the missing five.

PNG Post-Courier

What remains interesting in this case is an open finding in a coronial inquest several years ago, which did not rule out an act of piracy in its conclusion.

Last Friday, hundreds of angry protesters marched in the town of Buka, raising their voices against piracy and venting their anger against the new Autonomous Region of Bougainville for failing to take action against sea pirates.

They, just like every other Papua New Guinean, have every right to know how their loved ones have vanished without a trace while travelling along the shores or out in the open oceans.

In recent years in East New Britain, sea pirates caught by police were prosecuted and sentenced to death.

In the Gulf of Papua, travellers from Gulf and Western fall victim to sea and river pirates.

Along the Northern Province waters and Milne Bay waters, sea piracy is becoming a common law and order issue. In the last two years, wanted criminal Tommy Baker led a string of piracy attacks.

He is still on the run.

Papua New Guinea has a vast coastline and many islands.

In fact, our coastline is said to be 5,152 km (3,201 miles) long. And out in the open seas, there are many big islands and even more smaller islands, many uninhabited.

Policing the vast coastline and the islands is nonexistent.

Once in a while, we hear of piracy, boats shot up, people robbed, women kidnapped and sexually abused, children subjected to trauma.

Some victims are never to be heard of or seen again.

In the absence of anything resembling a coast guard, the government needs to have a policy on this that works for public confidence, public protection and interest.

The NMSA needs to seriously consider this as a national threat to the safety of our travelling public who use small craft and smalls ships for movement of passengers and cargo.

Police boats given to maritime provinces are virtually useless given that they are hardly used on anti-piracy patrols due to lack of funding.

Boat travellers and seagoing ships are tired of this. Incidences of piracy are now being reported on our country’s big rivers and waterways. This is adding to the fear our people face.

Some years ago, the NMSA made it compulsory for small boats to be registered, and owners to provide emergency equipment on their craft.

This law is not effective, just as taxi meters for taxi operators is non operable on land.

In this age of rocket science, internet and robots, and drones, finding missing boats or hijacked craft using GPS, should be made mandatory and the costs passed onto dinghy manufacturers to include Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon on their products.

Frankly, we have had enough of piracy on the high seas and on our rivers.

This editorial was published by the PNG Post-Courier today, 29 September 2021.

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