Following shooting deaths, PNG police minister highlights reform

4:11 pm on 30 September 2019

Papua New Guinea's Police Minister says the constabulary aims to better equip officers with non-lethal techniques when faced with hostile crowds.

Bryan Kramer.

Bryan Kramer. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

Bryan Kramer's comment follows reports from Enga province of a deadly confrontation between police and illegal miners at the Porgera gold mine.

Community groups in Porgera claim four local men were shot dead by police personnel providing security for Barrick Gold's joint venture mining operations.

Speaking before he had been fully briefed on the incident, Mr Kramer admitted that over time police had resorted to certain practices, including use of gunfire, to respond to large, lawless crowds.

"We're definitely going to focus on reversing those practices, and ensuring a more efficient law and order and respect for the rule of law, and building trust within the community," he said.

"Most of these incidents can be avoided. It's just poor planning, poor management, under-resourced... poor recruitment processes, that as a result we have these type of incidents."

Meanwhile, Mr Kramer acknowledged there had been problems in the practice of police personnel being co-opted into providing security for major resource projects at the expense of protecting the community. He indicated that by next year there would be changes on this front.

"I've already had these discussions with Exxon (Exxonmobil, operator in the PNG LNG Project) in relation to the killings in Tari."

"A few (police) mobile squad members said the problem is 'well, we're already deployed to protect assets of the resource companies and we are given instructions not to engage on local issues, and that includes protecting people's lives," Mr Kramer said.

"So, I made it clear the primary function and constitutional role of police officers is to protect life. Life is the priority. So the practice in the past where they're deployed and look after resource companies at the expense of the people is going to change."

Mr Kramer, who was appointed as minister three months ago, said there was much work to do in order to reform PNG's police force, which he said had been hampered over the years by politicisation and corruption.

Long-running problems of ill-discipline within an under-resourced police force were linked by the minister to the soaring lawlessness around the country including its capital Port Moresby where officers were involved in a deadly fight in recent days.

"Now we're sorting out the police hierarchy, in terms of getting command and control, and we'll start addressing all those issues down to the street level.

"So the time line I expect is three months, that we should have a hand on thing, and by next year we're going to start running pro-active initiatives on how to address and prevent crime."