By Melyne Baroi in Port Moresby
“I will surrender if you guarantee I will not be killed,” says Eugene Pakailasi, who took over leadership of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay gang after Tommy Maeva Baker was killed in 2021.
He proclaimed this to Milne Bay Governor Gordon Wesley who met with the gang allegedly earlier this year in a daring secret meet-and-greet event in the Owen Stanley Range in Milne Bay Province.
The gang leader revealed his reasons for maintaining the gang and requesting police leniency.
Assistant Police Commissioner (Southern region) Clement Dalla in an interview with the PNG Post-Courier confirmed the above picture, saying that it had been taken earlier this year.
“We are aware of these pictures. The Governor has stated that Pakailasi wants to surrender,” Assistant Commissioner Dalla said.
“The Governor must reach out to police and we can work together to facilitate any surrender and work out a possible arrangement of a surrender programme.”
Police said Pakailasi was wanted for a string of robberies within the provincial capital of Alotau with his alleged involvement in various shootouts with police during Baker’s reign.
Elusive gang leader
So far, the gang leader remains elusive as police continue to make calls for the surrender of all members.
According to Governor Wesley, after being contacted by the gang to meet up, he went up to the mountains “alone” and found their camp base where they had a conversation.
“Eugene had strange reasons for keeping the gang alive, some of which involve an agreement with some prominent public figures during previous elections,” Governor Wesley said.
“Eugene said the gang’s agenda remains the same as when the former gang leader Baker was leading before his death.
“He said they were not paid for the work they did for the people in the public office and therefore still hold a grudge,” he added.
Eugene later asked the Governor to inform the police that he was not guilty of all the criminal allegations against him and that he would surrender to clear his name but was afraid of being shot dead.
“I told [the gang] that the only way I could help them was to have them surrender and work with the police in lowering the crime rate in the province,” Governor Wesley said.
Against killings in province
He reiterated that this rare occasion was followed by his efforts to have some of the gang members surrender and also said that he was against killings in the province — whether by the gang or by police.
Governor Wesley said that was the reason why he wanted to work with both the police and the gang to allow justice to be served peacefully.
The Governor claimed: “We have seen about 300 to 400 men and boys surrender their weapons in the past months since the surrender programme started.
“We have also seen about 200 deaths of young men and women who were suspected to be part of the gang in the province this year.
“I told Eugene and his gang that unless they want to be added onto the death toll, they must surrender to police.”
Governor Wesley said he would be sending an in-depth report to the provincial police commander of his conversation with the gang.
He would seek lenience from the Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister on the gang’s behalf to accommodate a peaceful surrender.
Melyne Baroi is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.