Commissioner Manning made this comment following the ongoing use of firearms in tribal fights in various parts of PNG and in many of the serious crimes committed to date.
“About 80 percent of the serious crimes in PNG, including murder and armed robbery, are committed with some form of firearm, whether home or factory made. Firearms were used in the recent killing of policemen in Enga, Hela, Milne Bay and quite recently in Porgera,” he stated.
“Whilst people may argue against a gun buyback scheme, I strongly believe that this is the best option available to us right now to remove a large number of illegal firearms from our communities.
“Firearms were illegally obtained by various communities to defend themselves against their tribal enemies. Up in the highlands, firearms remain the prized possession of many tribes. However, in recent times, many of these firearms have been used in criminal activities and hired out to others as well.
“If we are serious about getting rid of firearms from within our communities, the gun buy-back scheme is the best way forward. Under this proposal, which I will be putting to the Government through the Police Minister, we will offer a three-month nationwide gun amnesty during which a massive national awareness campaign will be initiated. All guns surrendered within the amnesty period will be bought by the government. No criminal action will be taken against anyone who surrenders their illegal firearms within the amnesty period.
“After the amnesty period, I will be recommending life imprisonment for anyone caught with a firearm,” Manning said.
He has called on the PNG public to take on a zero tolerance attitude to illegal firearms. He said whilst many may think firearms may be their protection, he said these are the weapons that may end their lives or the life of someone they love.
“The gun culture is destroying our country. All thinking and concerned Papua New Guineans must now take a collective stand against the proliferation of illegal firearms within our communities,” Manning said.
Meanwhile, Manning also acknowledged that one of the reasons for communities to arm themselves was the inability of the state to provide a safe and secure environment for them. He said the police force was outnumbered and poorly funded and cannot maintain a nationwide presence.
“I want to change that. In the long run the State is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of all its citizens. Under my leadership I want to nurture a strong and formidable partnership with all stakeholders to ensure that the law and justice sector, and especially police, is present within all the 89 districts of PNG.
“People must take comfort that we can provide for their safety and security and they do not have to take the law into their own hands.”