PNG troops still await deployment orders for election security

Papua New Guinean security forces
Papua New Guinean security forces ... awaiting call out for the Highlands "hotspots". Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Miriam Zarriga in Mt Hagen, Papua New Guinea

The full strength of the Papua New Guinea security forces has yet to be deployed into the Highlands “hotspot areas” in time for the general election next month.

The commanding officers of the Royal PNG Constabulary, PNG Defence Force and PNG Correctional Services confirmed this yesterday.

The officers have not been deployed around the country with the three disciplinary forces waiting on the call from Police Commissioner David Manning.

So far there has been:

  • an election-related death reported in Ialibu-Pangia;
  • Returning officer of Kompiam-Ambum shot and injured;
  • two candidates shot at by opposing candidate supporters;
  • oil spilled onto the tarmac at Kagamuga Airport; a minister chased by angry public in his district; and
  • the burning of party merchandise by opposing supporters.

In a statement, the PNGDF noted: “The launching of the PNGDF NATEL 22 security operations will be next week, once it is done, then we will be in a position to advise. As it is, troops are still in their units.”

The Correctional Services issued a statement noting that for their 500 men and women to be deployed for election operations, are still waiting on the call by Police.

Police Commissioner David Manning arrived in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands, and met with Assistant Commissioner of Police-Eastern End Rigga Neggi and WHP police commander Chief Superintendent Joe Puri.

‘The call out will be done’
“The call out, especially any operational order, will be done once it has been established where the men and women are needed,” he said.

“We have identified where the men and women need to be and that is where they will be sent.

“Many of the police units who were sent to the different provinces prior to the election have returned for a break before they are redeployed.

“Others will now be sent out to the other provinces.”

It is expected that over three days from June 15-17, the three armoured vehicles will travel into the Highlands region via Lae, Morobe Province.

The vehicles will arrive in Mt Hagen where the countrywide launch of the security operations will be held that will see more than 5000 security personnel deployed into 22 provinces.

Police Minister William Onglo said: “Election is known to be violent at times and we will ensure all security personnel from the three disciplinary forces are mobilised and sent out.”

‘Disastrous security planning’
Former police commissioner Gari Baki warned: “Deployment not done earlier is the start to a disastrous security planning for the election.

“Any deployment of security personnel should have been done two months before the issue of writ and the security assessment by the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) should have been done six months ago.”

Several provincial police commanders (PPC) have expressed concern citing that the mobile squads normally deploy two months prior to issue of writs as Phase 1 of the whole Natel Operations to conduct awareness/road shows, assist local police attend to outstanding conflicts.

“However, this has not been done this election, mainly due to lack of funds from the national government. Hopefully, they might be inserted a few weeks before polling.”

In a media conference, ACP Neggi said: “We are progressing well with our operations at the Eastern command and we are expecting extra reinforcement to land this week onwards.

“So we should have a lot of security personnel on the ground and we are having a parade for the highlands operations next week. Before that, we will have a commanders’ conference here.

‘Bit of a hiccup’
“In terms of the security operations preparations we are progressing well.

“There are little bit of hiccup along the way but as time goes on… both Highlands commands will be operating from Mt Hagen for administrative support. But the operations will be rolled out in the provinces from Hela coming down toward Simbu.”

ACP–Western End John Kale said that in the provinces of Enga, Southern Highlands and Enga, the police work was continuing.

“We continue our awareness and we are talking to the people on elections, however this is a region that any little thing can start something big, we continue to monitor.”

Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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