MOVES TO BRING BACK PNG'S VAGRANCY LAW

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By Tande Temane

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 13, 1998-Niuswire/ Post-Courier)---Provincial governors will push for the re-introduction of the Vagrancy Act in Papua New Guinea to help tackle rising crime and have other laws "toughened up,'' the Post-Courier reports.

The governors, attending a three day Governors Summit in Port Moresby, agreed Thursday that freedom of movement, especially of unemployed youths, must be stopped, as it had contributed significantly to increasing law and order problems in the country.

Any illegal gathering and movement of groups of people must be controlled, they said, in serving notice of their intention, as MPs, to push the issue at next month's sitting of Parliament.

They said some laws relating to police operations and onus of proof in a court of law must be changed to make sure that the present lenient system is done away with.

The governors made their comments following a paper presented by Morobe Governor Luther Wenge - who is a lawyer and former acting judge - in which he recommended that the Vagrancy Act be reintroduced.

His move is designed to stop the unnecessary movement of people between provinces in a bid to cut crime.

East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare said the judicial system was too soft on criminals who committed serious crimes, who were allowed to roam the streets of major towns and cities as if they were immune to the law.

"There is no protection for police by law to do their job properly, and the onus of proof always remains with the police and victims until the accused are proven guilty in a court of law,'' he said.

"The laws are therefore meant to protect criminals and not the victims.''

Sir Michael said an identification card system should be introduced in every province to monitor the movement of people between provinces and urban centers.

"Anyone who hangs around without any good reason has to be arrested, questioned and sent home,'' he said.

New Ireland Governor Paul Tohian said laws should be amended so that police do not always have to get a search warrant signed by a magistrate or court official to enter premises, especially when in hot pursuit of a criminal.

"The police must be given the powers to conduct raids and search without having to worry about the search warrant, especially when they know and have leads to where the criminals are harbored,'' he said.

Mr. Tohian, a former police commissioner, said search warrant requirement had prevented police from effectively carrying out anti-criminal operations.

Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru said the onus of proof must stay with the criminals until they proved themselves not guilty in a court. He fully supported the idea of re-introducing the Vagrancy Act and plans to move the motion in March.

Title -- 1190 CRIME: MPs: Bring back the vagrancy law Date -- 13 February 1998 Byline -- Tande Temane Origin -- Niuswire Source -- Post-Courier (PNG), 13/2/98 Copyright -- Post-Courier Status -- Unabridged

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