SUSPENDED PRISON OFFICER: INTERNAL PROBLEMS NEED TO BE FIXED

Suspended officer,  Superintendent Judy Tara

 Senior Correctional Service (CS)  officer who  was issued a suspension notice as acting commander of Lae’s  Buimo Prison has repeated calls for a perimeter fence  and for authorities to  provide funding to ease the overcrowding in in Buimo.

Correctional Service Superintendent Judy Tara,  was served a suspension notice  but pointed out that no formal appointments  for a commander or acting commander was made since the  previous commander took up a post in Port Moresby.

The main prison compound is manned by three officers

She has however accepted the suspension as the senior officer responsible but  called on the government to increase  manpower and fix the root causes for the ongoing prison breakouts:

With more than 60 prisoners still on the run,  the Buimo prison  administration has come under fire both from the public and from headquarters.  Today Judy Tara, the senior officer who   previously acted as commander on seven occasions was served  the  suspension notice.

But there  remains uncertainty over the commanders position. Tara says technically, no official appointment was made  for  the commander’s post .

“My suspension is effective as of today,” Superintendent Tara said.  “However, I was not given formal instruments by the Commissioner to take up the [prison] Commander’s role.”

Clothes left by prisoners who escaped
Main prison compound

            Superintendent Tara has  raised longstanding issues that contributed to  previous jailbreaks and  the one on Thursday (25thFebruary).

            A perimeter fence is needed. More staff are needed  for the prisoner population of  more than 700. 

            Coincidentally,  she  had just ended   discussions with the Lae MP,  Loujaya Kouza on Thursday about funding for a perimeter fence when  the jailbreak happened.

            “This is an issue I’ve brought up many times and also at the Commander’s conferences.”

            An investigation report submitted to the Correctional Service Commissioner’s office in 2015 following  two successive mass jailbreaks highlighted the problems raised again today. 

            The key factors that contributed to the breakouts  still have not been addressed.

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FLOOD DAMAGE IN EHP COULD COST UP TO K15M

Traffic along the Highlands highway has come to a standstill after flood waters destroyed part of the Bena bridge outside of Goroka Last night.
 More than 200 vehicles from Lae, Madang and the upper reaches of highlands have been stranded since  the early hours of this  morning.   Pedestrian traffic has taken  the place of vehicles as    people work  around the obstacle of the broken bridge.
 Yesterday,   vehicles could pass. Early this morning,  the section that held up  under strain of floodwaters 12 hours ago,  collapsed. 
 The Provincial Works  Department has  ordered a replacement bridge from Mt. Hagen.  But it could take a day before the bridge arrives in  Goroka for repairs.
 “Repairing this bridge and training the river could cost up to K2.5 million,” said Works Manager,  John Posagu.
 The Bena bridge is just one of several  that have  suffered serious damage  in the wake of floods   marking the end of an 8-month drought. 
 Yesterday,  The Henganofi MP,  Robert Atiyafa, visitied the Dunatina Local Level government area where five  permanent  metal bridges have been  washed away two nights ago.
 The  damage in Henganofi alone   will cost the district up to 5 million  kina for repairs.  It is money the district doesn’t have.
 “I don’t know what we will do at this time. The district simply doesn’t have the money to replace these bridges.
 “I am making an appeal to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill,  for urgent assistance. “
 In Dunatina,  More than 30,000 people are stranded in the rural local level government area.    At least one school is reported to have been destroyed by flooding.
 For the Bena bridge alone,  the repairs and the transportation of  a baily bridge from Mt. Hagen could cost the province up to 2 million kina.  The destruction has come at a time when the government is tightening spending  in all areas of operation.
 In Madang Province,  several bridges have   washed away.  In the Oro province, the provincial government needs  several millions to repair and replace  bridges destroyed last week during  flash floods.

 This is an emerging crisis  that could spell disaster for  the  whole PNG economy.

MANAM ISLANDERS: DISPLACED & DESPERATE

Story by Rachel Shisei – EMTV, Madang Correspondent 

Much has been said about relief supplies from the Government reaching the volcano displaced Manam Islanders in the Madang Province, but that’s only after an eruption, like the minor eruption last year which forced the government to act.
         The fact is that these people have been displaced since the year 2004, and have been living at the Care Centres in Bogia since then, away from their island home.
          Forced away from their island home, the volcanic Manam Island, they were moved to three different locations – the Potsdam, the Asarumba, and the Mangem Care Centres.
Care Centres yes, but are they being cared for?
          I  took the time to visit the islanders at all three Care Centers and found they are starved and without food.
         “We are most hungry and cannot help ourselves at this time. We’ve forgotten what eating 3 meals a day means,” said Cathy Maeda, a displaced Manam island mother, speaking in between sobs.
        “My son is crying because he’s hungry, I could only share my tears with him,” said Rose Sila, another mother at the Asarumba Care Centre, while fresh tears continue to flow out of her unclosed eye lids.
        A father, Joe Amira, joined in and added that the clothes they are wearing are the only ones they have left, and they have no idea what will happen next as they are living on land which belongs to someone else.
         With the elections just around the corner, the Manam Islanders are worried that the government is deserting them and candidates may only be running back to them when they need power; power that’s never been used to help them come out of their suffering,12 years on.
          “We are from Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister and everyone in Moresby must be concerned about our wellbeing,” said Jerald Soagili, an ex-teacher now living at the Asarumba Care Centre.
          The school year has begun, but there seems to be no hope for their children who will just roam the Care Centres looking for food.
          “School has started for children around the country, our children to go we cannot even afford to find food to feed our stomachs,” Kenny Bolu, the Vice President of Biang village on the island, now residing at the Potsdam Care Centre pointed out.
           Life away from their island home began in the year 2004, that’s 12 years ago.
          
Now these are a group of ‘Internally Displaced People’ as termed by the Madang Provincial Disaster Office who highlighted that they should by all means be nurtured by both the National and the Provincial Governments.

IS IT A NEW CHAPTER FOR THE RPNGC?

A look at how social media and mobile phones are transforming the thinking within the command  Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary…

It hasn’t been an easy road for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) since the turn of the century.
With the increasing use of social media – especially Facebook –  and mobile technology,  many of the atrocities committed against ordinary citizens  by rogue members of the RPNGC  have come to the fore again and again.

COP Gari Baki – Police Commissioner of Police
Images, once the stuff of “confidential” police reports to commanders,  are now being  placed in the public domain  accessible  on mobile handsets  to millions of Papua New Guineans.
University of Goroka student shot by police. Sent by Whatsapp.
The RPNGC has,  in the last five years, faced a steep learning curve.  With credibility eroded over decades, it has been difficult for commanders to win  back the trust and confidence of the public.  Anecdotal evidence pointed to profound weaknesses in action taken against members of the RPNGC by their own even when reported.
But for the first time in decades,  the masses  now have potent weapons at their disposal – the mobile phone and social media.  The chatter  on social media   has been too loud to ignore even for old school police commanders high up the police hierarchy.  The abuse that once happened in secret is now being exposed prompting many more people to come out with their own stories of similar abuse.
Social media has complemented the  slow and sometimes painful changes in the RPNGC.
Body of Thomas Kela, carried to the police station by protesting relatives.
The establishment of the Police Media Unit staffed by former journalists has also been key in what appears to be an era of openness and a level acceptance of the ills within the RPNGC.
Journalists seeking responses  from the police for cases of  brutality have  been allowed direct access to  the police commissioner, provincial police commanders  and  various directorates obtain  responses  to allegations and evidence posted on social media.
After a period of instability,  the National Executive Council reappointed  Gari Baki, as police commissioner.  Baki appears to have returned with renewed zeal.
In Ramu, Madang,  speaking during   a short interview after his first official engagement, he expressed that it upset him personally that  discipline in the RPNGC had drastically deteriorated with the lack of command and control.  He  predicted  drastic changes including   changes in commands and attitudes.  Within months, he announced new appointments and a restructuring of command zones  to make policing manageable in  Papua New Guinea.
Baki has been criticized for his handling of high profile cases including investigations relating to the Prime Minister and social media again has been merciless.  However, internally,  rogue officers  have borne the brunt of his administration’s wrath.
In 2015 alone,  39 officers  in  Port Moresby alone have either been arrested or suspended for investigations.    One of the most recent arrests have been of constables Jona Yawija and Jacklyn Tanda charged after with forcing a young  Port Moresby woman  to eat condoms.  The incident recorded on a mobile phone camera was posted on Facebook and eventually ended up in court as police evidence.
In Lae City, several more officers have been  arrested, suspended or jailed.  One of the most recent  was  Jack Baria, a mobile squad member sentenced  to 30 years in prison for the shooting of  Lae mother of two, Moana Pisim, in January 2015.   Social media  played a key role in providing evidence and pressuring the police command to act  accordingly.
Unlike in previous years,  personal mobile numbers of  top police officers including  the NCD Metropolitan Commander,  Benjamin Turi,  have been posted  on Facebook  to allow the public to report police abuse directly to the commanders.
In Lae City, stakeholders including the Chamber of Commerce are in constant contact with the Metropolitan Commander, Anthony Wagambie,  via a Whatsapp group,  SMS, emails and Facebook.
At the reopening of the Joint Services College in Lae, a senior police officer based in Port Moresby, said he wanted reports of police brutality reported as they  happened.
“I don’t care if the reports are negative against the  police force,” he said. “Commanders can’t be everywhere and we depend heavily on the media to tell us in brutal honesty, what our men and women are doing.”
Ends…

JOINT TRAINING COLLEGE REOPENS AFTER 26 YEARS

Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo – PNGDF Commander
After 26 years, The Government has reopened  the Joint Services College at  Lae’s Igam Barracks  to,  once again,  train  officers from the  Defense Force,  Correctional Service and the  Royal Papua New Guinea  Constabulary.
The last  batch of officers graduated in 1980 – the year when the PNGDF saw its first overseas deployment during Vanuatu’s struggle for Independence.
On Monday,  the college will begin its first classes with  a new batch of Army, CS and police officer.
The opening of the  College comes at a time when  there is a high  demand for  good leadership both in the  three disciplinary services. 
It also comes when  there  is need to meet the increasing  regional and cross border  security demands also  marking  a significant  investment into national security.  
Gari Baki – Police Commissioner
Selected members of the three disciplinary  services –  Police Correctional Service and the PNGDF  will be   sent here  to Igam to undergo  two years of training.
            “We want to produce good leaders  but we also want  them to build personal relationships,” Defence Minister, Dr. Fabian Pok said.
            In 1973, the  PNG government  approved the establishment of the joint Services training college. 
The  college operated  for  five years until the last batch of  officers graduated in  1980.  The reopening is   part of a shift in government attitude since Bougainville and the Sandline  Crisis after which  successive governments starved the PNGDF of its ability to equip and sustain itself.
            “When we came through here, the training centered around how to lead men and women. As commissioner, that is what I want for my men and women,”  Police commissioner, Gari Baki, a pioneer of the college said.
But there are significant challenges ahead.   The Lae Area Commander,  Col. Carl Wrakonei, made it known to  the ministers and heads of the services that the college would require a separate budget because   current funding from the Police,  Defense Force and CS was not be adequate to  sustain the running of the college into the future.
It is hoped that once teething problems expected by the college are  resolved,  members  disciplinary forces from other Pacific Islands in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)  countries will be invited to train here as well.