DOES PAPUA NEW GUINEA NEED ITS EXPENSIVE ARMY?

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 7) - In today’s Post-Courier, we report the plans of senior government members to change the laws to make it easier for our soldiers to be dispatched overseas on peacekeeping duties with the United Nations.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Puka Temu confirmed it is in the works to be considered. He said the thinking was for our military people to be used for peacekeeping in the Pacific region, primarily.

That will require legislative amendments, officers told our staff.

Once the changes have been made, and this could happen in the next sitting of Parliament, our soldiers may be subject to being sent to trouble spots overseas.

The concept is not new.

Many have talked about the need to make better use of the training that our military people receive.

Many spend all their career in the Defence Force doing drills and waiting for something to happen, or being occasionally drafted for civil engineering or other civic duties.

Such apparent waste of training and skills has lead to critics suggesting our nation can do without such an expensive and under-used force.

On the other hand, a former prime minister, Sir Julius Chan, made direct use of our military people back in the days of the secession violence on Vanuatu, the Jimmy Stevens revolution.

PNG forces landed on Vanuatu at the request of the local government and squashed the mini-rebellion. It was an effective use of our forces, within our own region and in a way that impressed many.

Since then, the Defence Force has had a checkered track record. The times spent in Bougainville during the crisis were extremely difficult. Points have been won back for the force in recent years as our people served, and continue to serve, with credit in the RAMSI force in the Solomon Islands.

So we come to the major philosophical point: Do we believe we need a fighting force of thousands of people, backed up with the logistics needed, or not?

If the answer is yes, the thinking immediately concentrates on what a permanent Defence Force can be used for to keep their military skills honed.

Service overseas, to help keep the peace, when done at the request of lawful authorities and under the banner of the United Nations, would be an honorful and useful way to occupy our soldiers.

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