THE PNG DEFENSE FORCE IS IN FOR MAJOR SHAKE-UP

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 23, 1998 - Post-Courier)--- The word from commander Brigadier General Jerry Singirok is soldiers who are physically unfit will be sacked.

"The Defense Force for a long time, has considered themselves a privileged crowd, but unable to deliver proper management, direction, command and control. Therefore I have organized a massive clean-up, said Singirok.

"Those officers with beer-guts who are not fit will be tested immediately. Those with high blood pressure will also be tested and if they fail to pass medical and physical training standards, they have to be removed from the Defense Force,'' said General Singirok after arriving from Buka, where he had been attending the Bougainville leaders meeting.

He was responding to suggestions that he was planning changes in the force's hierarchy and replacing some colonels, some of whom were just appointed mid-year.

"What I want to do, while I have the opportunity, is to clean up the Defense Force. I want to develop a Defense Force with a hierarchy that is highly responsive, effective and efficient in its management skills,'' he said.

Singirok brushed aside public perception that the Defense Force would side with the Government.

"I can assure Papua New Guinea that I am the commander of the Defense Force. I have no political affiliations. This Defense Force belongs to the people of Papua New Guinea and I will reassure all the people, including politicians, that this Defense Force will serve politicians and its people,'' he said.

General Singirok confirmed the sacking of two Defense lawyers and defended his actions saying that he had acted constitutionally within the Defense Act.

"And I have done that with consultation with the legal branch of the Defense Force," he said. No reasons were given.

Singirok said the Commanding Officer of Taurama Barracks Lt. Col. Peniel Niligur was suspended because of serious allegations of arms losses.

"I have also seen news of the fact that there was a suspension of Commanding Officer of the 1st Pacific Island Regiment. I would like to comment from the outset that the allegations are serious relating to loss of weapons and security of weapons at Taurama Barracks,'' he said.

He said the matter is being investigated by a senior officer. On the alleged raid on Captain Paul Kaliop's residence at Taurama, Singirok said it was security matter and not a "witch-hunt''.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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