28 Sep 2002

Former commander defends reform of PNG military

9:18 am on 28 September 2002

Former Papua New Guinea Defence Force commander, Ted Diro, who is now a national security adviser to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, has rejected advice from Australia's Defence Minister Robert Hill, to continue reforms to its defence forces or risk the military becoming a destabilising influence.

The Australian-sponsored reforms, which involve cutting more than a third of the country's soldiers from the payroll, have led to two mutinies in as many years.

Diro said Senator Hill had a "total misunderstanding" of the PNG military.

He said he was totally and utterly opposed to the down-sizing of the PNGDF to a level that he said would render it impotent and ineffective.

He blamed recent unrest in the military on the poor conditions troops were forced to endure in his cash-strapped nation.

In March, rebel troops at PNG's Moem Barracks raided the armouries and laid siege to their base for more than two weeks.

The troops were angry at the reforms implemented by then prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta

The rebellion was eventually crushed by by loyal soldiers.