17 Nov 2006

PNG Police Minister sacked

2:21 pm on 17 November 2006

Papua New Guinea's police minister, Alphonse Willie, has been sacked over his alleged failure to deal with ongoing rifts within the senior police hierarchy.

The force has been wracked with internal tensions since former commissioner Sam Inguba stepped down after his term expired in September.

Senior officers have been arresting and suspending each other in bids to tarnish the names of rivals for the top job.

The Police Association this week threatened industrial action unless the issue was resolved with the appointment of a permanent commissioner.

In parliament this week, the prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, urged calm within the force and said his government would address the issue of a new commissioner as soon as possible.

The union's call followed the suspension of acting Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga over his alleged involvement in the clandestine escape of Australian lawyer Julian Moti to the Solomon Islands on a PNG military plane in October.

Sir Michael's office has confirmed the sacked Mr Willie will be replaced by John Hickey, who is also the finance and planning minister.