22 Jan 2010

PNG Corrections Commissioner suspended following Bomana escape

5:44 pm on 22 January 2010

Papua New Guinea's Correctional Services Commisioner has been suspended as a result of last week's escape by 12 high-risk prisoners from Bomana maximum security facility.

Richard Sikani's suspension is pending the result of an investigation into the escape.

It follows the cabinet decision to strip the Correctional Services minister Tony Aimo of his portfolio over the escape, the latest in a string of recent jailbreaks across the country.

The Post Courier newspaper reports that both Mr Sikani and Mr Aimo say that the Correctional Services Department has made repeated requests to Government for funding to improve the jails, to recruit new staff and to pay overdue allowances.

They claim that it required up to 28 million US dollars for this but that government has not responded.

Meanwhile, the opposition says the government is using the top management as scapegoats for ongoing problems caused by negligence of a core institution.

A senior opposition MP Bart Philemon claims the escapes reflect how government has failed to reform the corrections system.

He says sidelining the minister and the commissioner is not the answer.

"It's not going to help. Whoever they put in there after suspending or terminating the minister and the head of the CIS, the same problem will exist. We've neglected capacity building for so many years. we're not adressing the symptoms that cause all these problems. There has to be a thorough action on our public service."

Bart Philemon