PNG police hunt for 15 Enga election suspects over ‘gun threats’

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PNG Police Commissioner David Manning
PNG Police Commissioner David Manning and Enga suspects ... “We're not time bound by the elections." Montage: PNG Post-Courier

By Miriam Zarriga and Marjorie Finkeo of the PNG Post-Courier

Police are closing in on 15 candidates in Enga who allegedly used guns to threaten civilians in their attempt to derail Papua New Guinea’s national general election.

PNG Police Commissioner David Manning said yesterday the police had their names and knew who the offenders were and where they were hiding.

He said most of them were highly educated men and that it was hard to understand why the highly educated elite of the province were engaging in such “ridiculous behaviour”.

Manning has appealed to all 15 to surrender to the nearest police station in Wabag to make matters easier for the accused candidates and their supporters.

They were suspected of:

  • instigating arson attacks on public and private properties;
  • instigating gun fights, shootings, attacks on police vehicles and shootouts with police officers; attacking a helicopter during insertion of polling boxes and papers; attacking polling officials; and
  • hijacking ballot papers and boxes.

Reports indicate the candidates, who are from three districts within Enga, are still on the run and have not surrendered to police.

Suspects armed, protected
Manning said that they were aware of the men but bringing them in was another risk as the men were armed and were protected by their own clans and tribesmen.

“We are aware of at least 15 of these candidates who stood for elections in a number of electorates in Enga, and our Investigative Task Force (ITF) is compiling reports and statements at this current time,” he said.

“This will allow for search warrants to be applied for on their persons, known associates, financial assets, and material property and if need be, arrest warrants.

“We’re not time bound by the elections. If these candidates think that we are, then they are sadly misinformed.

“We plan to have this taskforce deployed in stages over the coming days,” Commissioner Manning said.

Enga Provincial Police Commander acting Superintendent George Kakas said that the Investigation Taskforce (ITF) was in the districts to investigate the alleged offences.

“Their task is to ensure that the crime is tied to the candidate in question; once they have compiled their report we will be making arrests.”

‘So-called leaders silent’
Two weeks ago, Commissioner Manning said: “Someone must be held responsible for the death and destruction in the Enga province.

“These candidates, these so-called leaders, were silent when the death and destruction began and have remained silent since.

“God help us if this is the calibre of the ‘leadership’ that is being put forward for the people of Enga.

“The situation in Enga province is very serious and I have grave concerns for the lives of many innocent people there who have become victims of barbaric and animalistic attacks.

“I have always maintained that the electoral process must be jointly delivered in partnership with the people. Unfortunately, certain candidates do not think this is the way the elections should be delivered,” he added.

“Reading through the reports on the situation on the ground it is frustrating and sickening to note that known candidates and their supporters have deliberately attacked opposing candidates and their supporters to influence a favourable outcome.

“To think that these candidates are considered to be highly educated and have successful careers, married and have children of their own condone such violent acts by their tribesman and supporters is sickening.

‘Questionable morals’
“These so-called elites of the province, despite their degrees, are nothing but highly educated people with questionable morals.”

Meanwhile, former PNG Defence Forces Commander Major-General Jerry Singirok has expressed shock at the unprecedented level of gun-related violence in this year’s elections.

He placed the blame squarely at the foot of the government for failing to action the 2005 Gun Control Report he had authored.

He said the proliferation of guns in the Highlands was not only shocking but showed the lack of commitment and concern by successive governments to seriously address his report.

The Gun Control report made 244 recommendations which were endorsed by the PNG government when Singirok was the inquiry chairman.

“The increased use of firearms and machetes during this year’s national general elections is because the government and all police commissioners holding the office never attempted to look into the Gun Control Report 2005,” Singirok said.

“The undeniable use of high-powered guns in parts of the country, especially in the Highlands provinces, and the use of bush knives and weapons by candidate supporters recently in NCD and outside provinces had a lot of questions raised by citizens.”

Singirok said the next government must come up with a National Security Policy Framework Strategy in the next five years about where PNG would be in the next 10 years “when we invest in national security”.

He said the Gun Control Report 2005 was an extensive eight-month survey under the leadership of late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and the report had been sitting without any action taken by the government.

Miriam Zarriga and Marjorie Finkeo of the PNG Post-Courier. Republished with permission.

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