PNG governor wants ‘shoot to kill’ order at border

6:25 am on 3 April 2020

Deadly force should be used against anyone illegally crossing into Papua New Guinea from Indonesia, the governor of East Sepik province says.

PNG soldiers who have been sent to Hela Province

PNG soliders in Hela province. Photo: Scott Waide

PNG closed the border in late January to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but people continue to cross in secret.

Six were recently detained and quarantined after returning to PNG from selling vanilla in Indonesian controlled Papua, where it's reported they can obtain a higher price.

The Post Courier newspaper reported the governor, Allan Bird, saying the military should be given control of areas along the border.

"I understand Indonesians who are frightened by the massive infections on that side could be crossing the border to run away from the disease. If that happens we are finished," Mr Bird said.

"I am asking if a special order can be made and our border districts be placed under military control.

"I want the military to be given shoot to kill orders. East Sepik has no hospital facilities. We are only operating out of makeshift shelters. We can't cope."

Allan Bird.

Allan Bird. Photo: Parliament of Papua New Guinea

The Jakarta Post reported as of Wednesday, 1677 cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in 32 of Indonesia's 34 provinces, with 157 deaths.

A 43-year-old woman has reportedly died from the virus in West Papua province.

Last month, the governor of PNG's West Sepik province, Tony Wouwou, also called for better surveillance of the 700km border.

"People are still crossing at night, through bush tracks, from the other side. This is the problem that we have right now," Mr Wouwou said.

The problem is not being ignored in Port Moresby, however, with PNG Prime Minister James Marape warning earlier this week that anyone caught crossing would be imprisoned.

The Post Courier reported Mr Marape planned to speak to his counterparts in Indonesia and Australia, "to ensure that their borders are policed".

"I will give them approval to lock up Papua New Guineans on the other side, just as I will be locking up Australians or Indonesians if they are found crossing illegally onto our side."

To stop more incursions, police minister Bryan Kramer this week told Loop PNG a platoon of PNG soldiers would be sent to the Wutung border in West Sepik.

Indonesian military guard the border with Papua New Guinea at Wutung,

Indonesian military guard the border with Papua New Guinea at Wutung, Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

But Mr Bird said he had received reports that people were slipping around the Indonesian border at sea.

This is also an area of PNG's border security set to be beefed up with The National reporting two patrol boats are being deployed.

PNG Defence Force chief of preparation Colonel Opa Lari said the vessels would patrol both ends of the border.

"One of these boats will be deployed to Western [province] to patrol the seas of the southern part of the border while the other one will be deployed to West Sepik to patrol the seas of the northern part of the border," he said.

"Fresh soldiers are now being deployed along the border and the Highlands as of last Thursday to replace the ones who were there for the last four months."

While the only confirmed case of Covid-19 in PNG has since been evacuated to Australia, there are reported to be 32 cases in the Indonesian border cities of Merauke and Jayapura.

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