A look at major police stories from 2017

The year 2017 has been a dramatic yet challenging year for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

The main highlight for this year could well be the National General Elections with its own challenges and political issues; taking into consideration the rise in reported or sighted crime rates, especially in Port Moresby. 

The National General Elections 2017 saw the loss of four members of the police force in election related violence incidents.

The four members were killed in the line of duty; the first two gunned down in Wabag town in July

and the other two killed after being ambushed in Mendi in September; one day after the National Police Remembrance Day.

Despite the resource constraints and impediments, the Royal PNG Constabulary with the assistance of its sister disciplinary forces managed to provide the much needed secure environment for a free, fair and safe election.

The National election could well be a push factor for the major reshuffle in the Hierarchy, as by October, immediate directive changes were made to 26 senior posts right across the country.

According to the police commissioner, Gari Baki, these changes were issued due to internal command issues and issues arising from the 2017 national general elections.

Preparations for the 2018 APEC Leaders’ Summit has been taken on as another challenging task for the constabulary and one that the RPNGC is working towards with the ongoing support of the current government and its bilateral partners like Australia, New Zealand, the United States and China.

Commissioner Baki has welcomed the assistance offered by the Australian government through the PNG- Australia Policing Partnership Program as well as all extended help coming from other foreign governments in the preparatory stages of the APEC 2018 Meetings.

However with the challenges of policing in the Major national event, one must also take into consideration the rise in criminal activities as reported and which has also been seen as a major challenge for the PNG Police.

This year alone; with the help of social media platform NCD Alert, data of unofficially reported cases of motor vehicle theft has been perceived to increase rapidly, with thieves using different tactics to commit this crime.

In Lae, Morobe Province, one the most challenging cities in dealing with law and order, has evolved in just a short space of time since Anthony Wagambie Jnr took over as Metropolitan Superintendent.

Its toll free number and Whatsapp initiatives has helped the public immensely to report crime and enabling police to work effectively and efficiently in arresting crime.

In this year alone, the rate of homicide and armed robbery cases, that caught wide spread attention, included the controversial death of Veteran journalist Rosalyn Albaniel, who is among a number of young women whose deaths were alleged to have resulted from domestic violence with perpetrators yet to answer to law.

Also the sad discovery of the body of a 23 year old man at the Treasury building and the torture and murder of women in the highlands region, suspected of practicing sorcery. This included the brutal torture of a 6 year old girl over suspicions of sorcery. In this particular case, police have yet to capture perpetrators.

One of the major robberies of the year was the 2.2 million kina airport robbery; Without doubt this had been the biggest robbery of the year with these criminals walking away on a clean slate.

Another controversial case still hangs in the air regarding the alleged murder of seven men by a defence force personnel on the Hiritano highway over allegations of rape.

To date, this story remains as it is, just a story, where locals living along the highway are reluctant to say anything.

It is obvious law and order still remains a daily challenge, especially is bringing perpetrators to justice.

On a positive note and in what is yet to be proven successful is the first of its kind housing scheme which has been arranged for police personnel to buy a home.

A formal contract for this housing scheme was signed between former housing Minister, Paul Isikiel, the Police Association, the National Housing Commission, Bank of South Pacific and nominee company, Millscope LLC.

The housing project will see to the construction of 1 thousand homes for police personnel who are members of the Police Association.

An agreement has also been reached on an increase in Salary under the government’s approach for police personnel come 2018.

Police men and women in the country will see a 3 per cent increase in their annual Salary once the agreement between RPNGC, the police union and the government is acted upon.

Following that, another K60 million is expected to be paid in back dated outstanding service allowances for police personnel in Papua New Guinea.

The outstanding payments date back to 2009.

In the recent budget lock up in parliament, the budget for law and order was cut by K 50 million; a fall from K308 million to K258 million.

Shadow Minister for Treasury and Finance, Ian Ling-Stuckey questioned why a crucial and vital area for community safety and development has been slashed.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said this was attributed to issues with the Police modernisation program.

He said the cut should not be taken literally, conveying that law and order has got up to 20 per cent of the allocations through district and provincial programs.

A day into the New Year 2018 and police operations are now wrapping up around the country in terms of the Christmas and New Year operations, we have 364 days left to see how the year will turn out.

We will keep you posted on all the main follow ups and more as the year unfolds.

Annette Kora