Will SHP be the next Bougainville?

PORT MORESBY, (LOOP PNG) – Papua New Guinea’s retired military commander Jerry Singirok
says the government was too quick in declaring a state of emergency (SOE) in Southern Highland province.

He said what had transpired over the last few days has all the elements of how the uprising in Bougainville started.
Singirok warns the Government to tread with care.

The former Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, who was at the forefront of the Bougainville Crisis as an infantry soldier in 1989 and eventually becoming the PNG Commander in 1995, said before we confront the people, there has to be a lot of dialogue.

He said there has to be common sense so that the situation is not escalated.

“If the government is not careful, if they’re sending troops out there purely to confront the people, the situation will easily escalate because the conditions are right for such escalation.

“One particular circumstance is there has been a build-up of firearms, from heavy machine guns to light machine guns to small guns.”

Retired Major Jerry Singirok said people in Southern Highlands have openly declared their dissatisfaction with
government services, especially in relation to royalties, oil and gas.

“There’s a general breakdown of lawlessness in Southern Highlands and Hela and if the Government is not careful by the political leaders taking ownership and going to the ground, discussing, dialoguing with the people then the
situation will escalate.”

He said the Southern Highlands leaders apologising was a start but making the apology in Moresby will only reach a small percentage of people.

“The political leaders need to be physically on ground because that’s what they are mandated to do; to carry the
burdens of the people.

He said it is important as well that Commanders on ground exercise high professional leadership to the men and
women they command to make sure the Rules of Engagement designed is carried out.

Singirok said when there is no rule of engagement, soldiers tend to take law into their own hands because soldiers are trained differently than police.

Singirok stressed that it’s important that the SOE is taken seriously with a common sense approach so that there is no confrontation on behalf of the Government with the people.