Rule of law restored in Mendi, use of illegal arms probed in; PNG PM

Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neill. Picture: FT FILE/RNZ

PORT MORESBY, 19 JUNE 2018 (POST COURIER) — The Papua New Guinea Government has restored normalcy in much of the areas where destruction had taken place in Southern Highlands, specifically manned by disciplinary forces, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told a media conference in Port Moresby.

And O’Neill also said that the police will immediately investigate the issue of the possession of illegal firearms used by the factions that protested in the last few days.

In the last few days, pictures and videos of armed tribes have gone viral calling on PM O’Neill to resign, PNG LNG to be shut, with tribes openly carrying arms.

“Our government does not condone the behaviour. As stated very clearly in our leaders meeting, that the rule of law must be applied in our province. The State of Emergency that’s been in place during the disaster will be extended, and now it will take carriage over all the other law and order issues in the country as well,” he said.

He said police have put together a team who will be travelling to Mendi to investigate the incidents and make sure that appropriate charges are laid onto people who are responsible.

“Many of these people are known to the community so we don’t expect these investigations to continue …we want to make sure that we don’t have people taking the law into their own hands, we have to accept that the court’s ruling, many of us who go to court understand it very well but sometimes courts rule against it, you have to accept them and exercise your right according to law, and this is when you can appeal and review so that if you feel that you are not being treated fairly there are ways where you can address these issues,” O’Neill said.

“I also take the call by the Opposition, every time there’s an incident around the country, the Opposition is always calling for my resignation, they should know now that after seven years, the only way to beat me is to go to elections, the only way to beat me is on the floor of Parliament, that’s where it rightfully belongs. I don’t control behavior of every individual in the country, sometimes we live in a community where people are miserable, sometimes they take the law onto their own hands but we as leaders we must continue to maintain our calm so that we can give them the confidence to restore peace and order in those areas,” the Prime Minister said.

“I want to commend the work of the police and military who were on the ground, they have been there since the announcement of the SOE, we have extended that emergency, we are going to look into the administration of the provincial government and the process is that the emergency committee will go and make the assessment and parliament will take a view and make decisions.

“All in all I want to thank the work of both police and military working with the community who are making sure normalcy is taking place.

“Tomorrow, (today) many of the leaders who were here for the court case will go back to the provinces and will have communication with their supporters. Sometimes we forget these things have happened in the past and it is easy to put blame on others. Managing sensitive provinces like Southern Highlands and Enga, Hela and a few others in the Highlands region is not easy. We are talking about a huge population, where rival issues come into play, it’s not easy. Leaders have to be commended, we came together,” he said.

“I will go to Mendi as soon as the leaders are responsible for the dispute go back and once they communicate with their supporters. If it happened in my electorate, I will go because I know the disputes and those responsible. PNG needs to be in business and we can’t be held to ransom because some individuals have gone ahead done things that not in the best interest of the country.

“We all know who the suspects are and we will let the police deal with the issues…,” he said.

“I don’t think it is fair that every time there is a problem in the country I have to personally attend to it. I think it is important that we allow our law enforcement agencies to do their job independently. Many times, in the country we always have leaders go in and sometimes interfere and we don’t arrest people for the criminal acts that they do, we allow sometimes compensation to come in and undermine the legal process in the country.

“That’s why sometimes you see the police are helpless, they can’t do their work. We are undermining the powers of the police and the powers of the courts and the end result is the rule of law is undermined. We will allow the community to participate in this process, and that’s what happened 20-30 years ago, rule of law must be established,” PM O’Neill said.

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