PNG PM keen to get Mendi issue sorted

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neil. Picture: RNZ

PORT MORESBY, (THE NATIONAL) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says he has
demonstrated the importance of meeting a challenge head-on when he visited Mendi, Southern Highlands.

After last week’s unrest in Mendi town, followed by high tension and O’Neill working with parties to restore calm, it was important that he spoke directly with the people, he said.

He called on the people to show respect for the law.

“There is no excuse for a few individuals acting in a way that is a national disgrace. We cannot change what
happened, but we can all take charge of the future,” O’Neill said in Mendi.

O’Neill said people raised concerns with him and they would be properly followed up.

“I have listened to the concerns relating to the Electoral Commissioner in regards to the conduct of the election for the Southern Highlands regional seat,” he said.

“Leaders have given me their views and I will see to it that these claims are properly heard.”

A huge crowd was calm and relatively relaxed considering the past week’s tension, and all the leaders who spoke
welcomed the presence of the prime minister who was to travel to China later.

Meanwhile, the Police Union is concerned about the safety of police officers providing security in troubled Southern Highlands.

Union president Lowa Tambua told a media conference in Port Moresby that the only thing that appeased them and their families was police insurance cover.

“This insurance policy is the only protection accorded to our policemen and women by the Government,” Tambua

His concern came on a day Prime Minister Peter O’Neill travelled and spoke to the people of Southern Highlands in Mendi to ease tensions following last week’s unrest.

And it came a day after police transferred senior officers to and from the province to help sort out issues.
Tambua said from past experience when police were deployed on such national call-outs, the Government had failed to pay insurance allowances.

“The police association will consider resorting to flexing its industrial muscle to seek redress on this issue,” he said.
“The Government must take heed of this call, and immediately release the outstanding insurance premium totalling K7million (US$2.1 million) covering more than 100 police officers, spouses and dependents for the years 2017 and 2018.”

The union was also concerned about treatment of police officers during different national callouts, especially the
current State of Emergency in Southern Highlands.

“Our police personnel risk their lives daily, ensuring peace and harmony in all corners of the country,” Tambua said.

“So many police officers have died on duty in the hands of civilians during recent elections.

“That is the risk faced by police officers on the ground.”

Meanwhile, new acting administrator Joseph Cajetan said he was a neutral person with no affiliations to politicians,
including Governor William Powi.

“There are many rumours floating around that I, Joseph Cajetan, am a Powi man,” he said.

“I wish to completely and categorically deny these rumours.

“I have never supported anyone publicly or privately including Powi, Joseph Kobol, Bernard Peter or anyone in the
2017 national election.

“I’m always a private and professional person with no interest in politics.”

Cajentan said he accepted the challenge of acting provincial administrator because he could not sit back and watch his province disintegrate….

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