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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 22) – Papua New Guinea Defence Force chief of staff Col Joseph Fabila has issued a stern warning to all military personnel to maintain neutrality and impartiality as the preparation for this year’s elections gather momentum.

Col Fabila said individual soldiers should refrain from providing security or escort to intending candidates.

"We do not encourage PNGDF personnel to provide private security escorts to intending candidates," he said.

"We have instructed all unit commanding officers to be aware of this and communicate the same to their men to ensure PNGDF’s participation in this important event is not compromised," Col Fabila said in a statement.

He said personnel picked to assist the police in the election operations had been given detachment orders as authorisation to be commanded, controlled and management by operations branch.

The chief of staff issued this warning following reports that three soldiers were abducted in election-related incidents.

"Reports that the three soldiers have been abducted are not true.

"Our internal investigations showed that the three soldiers were on their properly authorised entitled annual recreational leave," Col Fabila said.

"They themselves volunteered to assist. However, there are provisions in the Defence Manual of Personnel Administration that allow soldiers to seek employment in the civilian communities for the duration of their recreational leave," he noted.

However, the chief of staff explained that the Defence Force would not be held liable for their actions while those personnel are on leave and are employed in the private sector and election-related matters.

Defence Force institution is not to be used for political rallies and meetings except for activities related to assisting the Electoral Commission and the RPNGC to ensure a peaceful and fair election.

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