PNG crime spree threatens Milne Bay economy

7:52 am on 17 January 2019

A crime spree linked to notorious prison escapee Tommy Baker has companies in Papua New Guinea's Milne Bay province threatening to close.

Tommy Baker

Tommy Baker Photo: Facebook / The Notorious PNG

Police suspect Baker and his gang of murder, piracy and a string of violent armed robberies at banks, businesses and resorts in the province over the last 18 months.

The Milne Bay governor's press secretary, Neville Togarewa, said the crime spree had prompted a meeting of the Provincial Law and Order Committee.

The meeting on Friday will be attended by local MPs, including the deputy prime minister Charles Abel, as well as representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, churches and community groups.

All are concerned by the impact the crime spree is having on the local economy, Mr Togarewa said.

"Many companies in and around Alotau have expressed their deep concern about the safety of their businesses," he said.

"They have given notice that if the provincial government and administration do not do anything, it's likely they will close shop and leave."

The Baker gang may have emboldened more criminals in the area, according to the press secretary, who said there were "other groups involved".

"Criminals, who are kind of piggy-backing and claiming that they are part of Tommy Baker's group but the police are blaming Tommy Baker for these very serious crimes that are happening in Alotau, in Milne Bay and possibly nearby provinces like Central Province and Oro."

Baker escaped custody for a second time in October while receiving hospital treatment.

He and his gang are thought to have ambushed police in Milne Bay's provincial capital, Alotau in December.

A likely agenda item for the committee meeting was how the crime spree was threatening Milne Bay's tourism potential, Mr Togarewa said.

The lawlessness could jeopardize funding from the government and the World Bank to develop the province as tourist destination, he said.

"The potential is great in terms of hundreds of islands, white sandy beaches, forests, bird-watching, tracking, tourists can explore caves, there's beautiful scenery so in terms of potential, Milne Bay has a lot to offer the discerning tourist."

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