PNGDF Piper and Drummers pass off the square at Piping School

p3At today’s parade at the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming (ASBM&HD) drum majors, pipers, and drummers passed off the square at adjacent Redford Infantry Barracks, Edinburgh, in front of family and friends.
The soldiers have been at the Piping School to study either level 2 or level 3 stages of the piping and drumming courses.
p2In a break from the usual British Army musicians on parade three members of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force also went through their exam stages, and piper Private Megaiya Keyaga was also voted best piper on the course – a very distinct honour.
Private Mayaga said: “I have had a great time at the Piping School, and it was a very great honour to be awarded the best piper trophy, particularly as the voting was done by the piping instructors here at the school.”

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Drum Major (WO2) Billy Vele gained certificates in drumming and drum majoring, with Private Tom Epo also gaining his drumming certificate.
The trio were cheered on by Mr Nasser Tamei, First Secretary at the Papua New Guinea High Commission, who made the journey from London to attend the event.
ASBM&HD offers courses in piping and drumming at all levels for members of any Regular Regiment in the Army that has pipes and drums.
Additionally the school provide support to community engagement and recruiting events, as well as monitoring the standards of each unit’s pipes and drums.
Co-ordination of all joint events involving pipes and drums, such as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, is also undertaken by ASBM&HD.

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BUIMO PRISON: INGREDIENTS FOR ESCAPE STILL EXIST 8 MONTHS ON

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On the evening of February 25,  a convoy of  police and correctional service vehicles,  with sirens blaring,  drove into the rear gate of  the Angau Hospital  in Lae.

On board some of the vehicles were the bodies of 12 prisoners who had been shot dead  during an escape that had been planned for several months.

During the escape, two prison officers  were injured as  more than 80 prisoners dashed for freedom.

The  killing of a dozen prisoners by  law enforcement authorities,  drew widespread international media coverage and  caused some outrage on  social media.   But days later, the concerns over  what some viewed as extrajudicial killings faded into  apparent insignificance as people settled into their daily routines.

But prison insiders  and senior prison officers  continue to point out that the  February escape  was  the result of ongoing protests over food rations  and the general state of   conditions inside the Buimo prison.

“We raised concerns about prisoners getting sick because of unsanitary conditions,” said Lengtry Kintau, a former prisoner who was released this year after serving nine years for armed robbery.  “The responses were not always favorable.”

Kintau, who is now studying for a masters degree in communications at the University of Technology in Lae, has become a voice for prisoners who are unable to speak  out  for themselves.

“There are many other  issues affecting prisoners.  The monthly visits by judges don’t happen as often as they should so there is a great deal of uncertainty about  the  future.”

On the morning of the prison escape,  The  Member of Parliament for Lae , Loujaya Kouza,  was  in a meeting with the Acting jail  commander, Superintendent Judy Tara.

“The rest of the information I was getting that morning were fears being spoken out,” said Kouza.  “…The fact that they (the prisoners) are not eating properly and  sleeping properly are reasons enough  to break out.”

The main priority identified   in hours before the breakout  was the  need to construct a perimeter fence around the  prison compound.    When Kouza left the prison compound after the meeting. The breakout occurred.

But the topic of the  perimeter fence isn’t  new.

In 2015,  two prison  breakouts – one by  adult prisoners and the other by juveniles –  also prompted an investigation. The  investigation  report  contained a statement by the Acting jail commander, Superintendent  Judy Tara.

“There is no boundary fence for all the detainees’ compound facility at the Jail and  therefore it is very difficult to manage,” Tara  said in the report.

“The old facilities were built many years ago  and cannot adequately cater for the security needs of today.

“A juvenile detainee who climbs over its security fence at the juvenile wing is already outside the prison facility as there is no boundary fence.”

Since February,   the important  discussions  about the prison perimeter fence  which took prominence days after the escape have  faded yet again just like the  shock and horror of the killings  of the 12  prisoners.

What  appeared  to have happened is a break down of communication between   civilian authorities, the prison command and  Correctional Service Headquarters with no firm funding commitment made by political heads.

According to the CS Commissioner,  Michael Waipo,  the Morobe  Governor, had made a commitment to fund the construction of the perimeter fence.  The Morobe Governor in a recent news conference indicated  the funding request had not come to his attention.

Eight months since  law enforcement authorities shot and killed 12 prisoners during an escape,   the perimeter fence that can prevent  new breakouts  and the unnecessary deaths, still has not been built and   the ingredients for another prison escape still exist.

A TURMOIL OF EMOTIONS

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I am appalled, flabbergasted even sadden that even after 41 years of freedom, independence and self rule we are being dictated by a foreign sovereignty.

At the Independence Celebration where the new version of the Black Brothers (not the Originals bar one) played Police removed the West Papuan flag from some people who carried it.

Freedom of Expression is a QUALIFIED right duly guaranteed under the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

It is sad to see that some element of Police Force cannot stand defend the Constitutional right of Expression. It’s not only sad from a West Papuan perspective but it is sure sign of a dangerous trend developing where the Police Force are ENFORCING the WISHES of a foreign sovereignty and NOT seen to protection our Constitutional right.

Freedom of Expression is a Qualified right.

The Police Force must DEFEND it when foreign elements are seen abusing it. The Force must PROTECT it and allow Png citizens to exercise it freely.

PNGDF COMMANDER SAYS GOVT NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND ARMY NEEDS

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Ongoing reform in the Papua New Guinea Defense force is being aimed at rebuilding the PNGDF with a greater focus  on regional security.

Some of the objectives include the development of the recently opened Joint Services College (JSC) into a regional security training center that caters to the  security training needs of other countries within the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Countries as well as the relocation of the Lae based Engineering Battalion.

“Under MSG arrangements we have an obligations to support our neighbors,” says PNGDF Commander, Maj. Gen. Gilbert Toropo.

As in the case of the crisis  Solomon Islands,  there was  a heavy dependence on Australia as the main regional partner.

Australia funded the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI)  which included members of the PNGDF.

The PNGDF Commander indicates the  Pacific Island Countries cannot  always rely on Australia  for regional security.

“You will note that  regional security has always been approached on an adhoc basis  and we don’t want to continue doing that.

“Our aim is to train for our priorities during peacetime  so that when  emergencies happen, Pacific countries can respond easily because officers have been trained together.”

As a older  member of the PNGDF who  served on Bougainville,  Toropo, saw  the  deterioration of the  PNGDF  during the 10 years of the   Bougainville  Crisis.  Resources were depleted  and, over time,  the  number of personnel   who had aged  were not replaced as quickly as  was needed.

“When we returned from the Bougainville war,  we found that  infrastructure had deteriorated.

“Then the government decided to downsize the  Defence Force. But that didn’t affect our constitutional priorities.”

After 30 years, the reopening of the Joint Services College  at  the Igam Barracks in Lae,  has brought renewed youthful  vigor to the fatigued  PNGDF.   For the first time in three decades,  the Igam barracks  received new recruits from all over Papua New Guinea  and from  the three disciplinary  services.

Toropo sees  the PNGDF playing a greater role in nation building through the engineering battalion.

“Ideally, we want to  establish  four regional battalions with a priority in the Highlands,” Toropo says.  “It will also mean relocating the engineering battalion in Lae  to another province.

In recent years,  there has been increased focus on internal  security  within resource  rich areas of Papua New Guinea.

The military presence  is also part of  a greater effort  to place pockets of security personnel in  hotspots around the country like mine sites and LNG projects   which, according to government commissioned  investigations, has seen an increase in the number of   small arms in tribal warfare.

The heads of departments  meeting  that ended today   is  key  for the PNGDF as is express  its long term funding requirements  that is spread out over the next 20 years.

“Our needs are unique and most times we are treated  like another government department.  A lot of times,  the government doesn’t understand  that we need to plan for a longer period.”

THE COMPLEXITIES OF DEVELOPMENT, LAND, CRIME IN MADANG

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Inside a tiny two bedroom fibro house built by the Australian colonial administration, the wife of a serving member of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary   points to repairs that she and her husband did over the years to the condemned building .

“When it rains, the water comes through the roof,” she says. “We can’t use the toilet and the shower   so we built an outdoor shower.”

The clay pipes installed more than 40 years ago are cracked in many places. The sewerage is leaking onto the lawn. They dug drains to channel the sewerage into the main gutters. It’s a health hazard but they have no alternative.

“My husband signed an oath to serve this country,” says the mother of four. “I can’t tell him to leave this job because of   poor accommodation. It is a life a I chose as well.”

In Madang, the Kusbau police barracks, one of the oldest in the country, sits among residential lots, schools and tertiary institutions. It was condemned by health authorities more than 15 years ago. But some police families continue to live there having nowhere to go.

Over 15 years, police numbers saw a significant drop from close to 300 men and women to about 195 in 2011.

Most were transferred to other provinces because of the acute housing shortage.   As police numbers were reduced, the pace of economic development since 2010 has increased.   The Chinese owned Basamuk Nickel refinery, the Ramu Nickel mine, the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) and the growth in tuna processing industry, are among developments that spurred an influx of settlers from other part of Papua New Guinea anticipating new opportunities in Madang.

Nagada along Madang’s North Coast Road, is one of the newest settlements in Madang.   The land, legally owned by the Lutheran Church, has been taken over by local man, Lesley Bernard, who claims to be the customary land owner.

“Settlers pay a fee of K1500 every quarter,” he says. “I’ve given them blocks to settle and it makes my job to reclaim by land difficult   when they have conflicts.”

In July, some of Bernard’s tenants were involved in a violent clash that caused the death of one man and the destruction of several houses.   Several months prior, during another clash, the Madang Provincial Government brought in Lae based police units to quell fighting between Sepik and Highlands settlers. Attempts to evict settlers at Nagada failed after Lesley Bernard, obtained a restraining order against police and the provincial government.

Provincial authorities say a main cause of Madang’s settlement growth and subsequent increase in crime is the uncontrolled informal leasing and sale of customary land.

“The landowners themselves are to blame,” said one former police officer. “They sell the land and more people settle.

“Then the settlement population becomes larger than that of the local people. “The settlers cause the petty crimes and it triggers the fighting.

“Police have to be called to resolve it every time that happens.”

Apart from increasing instances of settlement clashes, the rate of serious crimes has also risen in the 2015-2016 period.   Police officers who refused to be formally interviewed,   said the number of armed robberies average between five and six cases a month. Officers from the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) said in 2015 that the number of cases has been overwhelming given the lack of transportation and limited resources.

“We are seeing cases where an officer works one shift and has to continue through to another shift because we don’t have enough people to man the station.”

Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, admits police numbers have not complimented the economic growth.

“As a constabulary, we have not done our job to keep police numbers in Madang in line with the growth of the province,” he said. “Many have had to leave because of the housing problems.”

The tourism industry has been one of the most hardest hit.

Fifteen years ago, Madang Town was a tourist hub frequented by scuba divers and other kinds tourists. In recent months, the owner of Madang Resort, Sir Peter Barter, has issued statements echoing   concerns related to the increasing crime.

Sir Peter is one of several people who have said tourist numbers have dwindled causing a slump in the tourism employment sector.

As Madang police work to resolve the latest settlement clash stemming from the double murder of a man and woman. Provincial and national leaders including Commerce and Trade Minister, Richard Maru, have ended the inaugural Madang Business Summit that is seeking to draw investors to the Province.