PNG Government fails Mendi

The Police Task Force team investigating the Mendi rampage in Papua New Guinea highlands province has pulled out due to lack of funding. Picture: RNZ

PORT MORESBY, 14 AUGUST 2018 (POST COURIER) – The Police Task Force team investigating the Mendi rampage in Papua New Guinea highlands province has pulled out due to lack of funding.

The bulk of the team which comprised police investigators from Madang, Goroka, Lae, Chimbu, Mt Hagen and Port Moresby left the Southern Highlands capital the previous Sunday with 13 suspects they arrested while the remaining withdrew on Saturday.

Southern Highlands Provincial Police Commander Chief Inspector Gedion Kauke confirmed the withdrawal without adding any further details.

Since pulling out, the team has been in Mt Hagen and refused to return to Mendi after claiming to have spent their own money for food and other expenses for three weeks.

Members of the task force, agreeing to speak on condition of anonymity, said they were paid three weeks allowances when they moved into Mendi after the June 14 mayhem but spent another three weeks without any allowances.

They queried whether there was a state of emergency and if so, where has the K6 million (US$1.8 million) proposed by the national Government being spent?

The sources said only 20 members would remain to work on the cases of the 14 suspects already arrested while the rest would disband and return to their bases.

“The Mendi issue is very serious in nature and it’s our responsibility to bring those responsible to the law but so far, we have been working under normal circumstances without any additional power and funding so we have to pull out,” one officer said.

The taskforce has arrested 14 suspects so far and are being held at the Mt Hagen police cells. The police prosecution team is trying to obtain a warrant to place them as remandees at the Bihute jail outside Goroka.

Their departure means most of the suspects, including those who gave the orders for the burning of a Dash 8 aircraft and several buildings, would be hard to arrest.

Meanwhile, circumstances on the ground indicate there is no state of emergency in the province.

The National Parliament is yet to pass the SOE declaration which was made by the NEC and appointed Thomas Eluh as controller days after the Mendi mayhem on June 14.

Eluh is yet to be in office as controller of the SOE, which was declared six weeks ago while operations have already began under normal circumstances.

The security forces and investigation task force team could not do any special operations which are supposed to be empowered by the SOE.

They have been on the ground doing their normal job of providing security and doing investigation work.

Eluh, who was a former head of the police fraud and anti corruption unit, is being caught in between what can only be described as Southern Highlands politics.

He was appointed acting administrator towards the end of last year to fix a similar volatile situation which he did, and then dumped, again to be given the title of SOE controller without any substance and authority.

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