PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 25) - The Wabag police station in the Enga Province of Papua New Guinea experienced its eleventh breakout over the weekend.

It is not a unique story in Papua New Guinea. It is a story synonymous with crime fighting in this country - or the lack of it.

Many police cells are not properly secure and all jails, including the Bomana jail, are no different. Prisoners walk in and out of the jails at will - whenever it pleases them. For most hardcore criminals jail is where a free meal is.

All efforts to curb lawlessness in PNG is proving worthless because the cells and jails are not properly secured to keep criminals behind bars.

Yet this serious matter is not being treated with any level of seriousness by the Government -- not just the present Government but all governments over the years.

Prison breakout is a common occurrence here. It is no longer headline news for newspapers as it used to be in the early 1970s. But each time there is a jail break out, the level of serious crimes increases sharply. Police have warned of this many times in the past and it is still happening. At present there is an unknown number of escapees on the run from jails all around PNG -- many are being harbored by friends or relatives who don’t see the need to report their presence to police.

Governments have declared law and order a major priority but all they have managed to do is pay lip service to it. There has been no new major expenditure on jails in PNG since Independence. Nearly all the jails were built by the Australian Government during the colonial era and remain so today.

The billion kina Enhanced Cooperation Program will no doubt bring benefits to the police and the way the law and justice sector is dealing with law and order problems in PNG.

But none of these funds will be spent on fixing jails to make them more secure so that criminals do not escape. That is the responsibility of the PNG Government.

October 26, 2004

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