'No political will': PNG considers gun ban to address violence

4:28 pm on 16 April 2024
Homemade guns confiscated by or surrendered to police in Alotau.

Homemade guns confiscated by or surrendered to police in Alotau. Photo: Facebook.com/Priscilla Waikaidi

A multilateral conference in Papua New Guinea has been organised with the hope of formulating a government policy that will reduce gun violence in the country.

The UN organised conference brings together experts from the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) and various disciplinary forces to address the proliferation of firearms.

"This is the first real attempt put together by the UN and EU in support of the PNG government to address the proliferation of small arms all over the country", RNZ Pacific's PNG correspondent Scott Waide said.

"The idea is to develop a strategy to control the proliferation of small arms and the widespread use of rifles and pistol throughout all of the provinces.

"Hopefully, by the end of the three days, there will be some kind of strategy or draft in place that they can take to government."

Among the officials in attendance is PNG's law and order parliamentary committee chair and Koroba Kopiago MP, William Bando.

Bando, who has been a victim of gun violence himself, wants the government to act promptly to curb gun violence and says the situation is dire.

"I don't know where we're heading as a country seriously", he said.

"There's no respect for rule of law and who should be the ones equipped with firearms under security forces. Are we going to allow civilians to be carrying firearms and then in the security forces walking around side by side, both and what kind of country have we become?"

Major General Jerry Singirok

Major General Jerry Singirok Photo: AFP

Another attendee, a former PNGDF commander, Jerry Singirok, said the country is dragging its feet on addressing country's gun problems.

Singirok authored a gun control Report in 2005 which calls for a ban on the public owning guns. It also calls for the establishment of gun control committees.

Strategies and reforms proposed by the report are yet to be tabled in parliament.

"There's absolutely no political will", Singirok said.

"I have had conversations with the former prime minister Peter O'Neil as well as with the current Prime Minister. There has been no response, there's no ownership of the gun issue. The country is bleeding, the country is struggling", he added.

Government should act - Bando

Gun violence in PNG goes beyond just bandits and armed robberies. In February, 60 people were massacred in Wapenamanda district in Enga Province.

The incident attracted worldwide attention and national outrage, heaping domestic and international pressure on to the PNG government to do something about epidemic of gun violence.

Bando supports Singirok's report and backs calls to ban gun ownership.

"We need to get a decision and we need to get an outcome," Bando said.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to reduce gun violence and remove guns from the provinces…it only takes government to implement a lot of those recommendations in Singirok's report which will help our police remove firearms throughout Papua New Guinea."

According to the Global Organised Crime Index, PNG has the second highest crime rate as of 2024, with the highest being Venezuela.

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