PNG POLICE OUTGUNNED IN HOSTILE HIGHLANDS

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Tribes have obtained high-powered rifles

By James Kila

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 25, 2008) - Some brands of high-powered firearms used in tribal warfare in the Highlands region are more superior than what the policemen are currently using during their official duties, an MP has said.

Kainantu MP Sailon Beseo revealed this last Thursday during his address at the opening of the Barola police post near Kainantu in Eastern Highlands (EH) province he is prepared to assist police in Kainantu in buying new firearms to help them with their duties, as what they are using now are outdated and not superior compared to what some tribal warlords in the Highlands possess.

"It is a known fact that some of the firearms used by villagers engaged in tribal fights in Kainantu district and even in other places in the Highlands are more superior than what our policemen are using," Mr. Beseo said.

He said this in the presence of the Assistant Commissioner Policing Jim Andrews, Highlands regional commander Simon Kauba and EH provincial police commander Teddy Tei.

Other dignitaries who attended the opening included the officials from the PNG law and justice sector program, EH provincial administrator Munare Uyassi and representatives from AusAID.

Beseo said it is not known how these high-powered firearms entered the country. "However, it is highly probable that drugs had been traded to bring them into the country across the borders," he added.

Beseo also questioned the role of the guns control committee on how it could broker an arrangement with warring tribes to retrieve those guns currently in their possession.

He said there was a wide condemnation of guns in the country and a nationwide consultative meeting by the committee.

He later told The National that he would be releasing PGK2 million [US$738,744] from his district improvement support program to set up a single police barracks for policemen serving in Kainantu.

Beseo said he is also committed to purchase new firearms for police to assist them in carrying out their work to curb tribal fights in the area.

He called on Mr. Andrews and Mr. Kauba to allocate 10 new police recruits to be based in Kainantu to assist in maintaining law and order.

Andrews said he would be discussing with Commissioner Gari Baki to allocate police personnel to beef up police work in Kainantu.

He said he would use funds to build a house for police personnel at Barola Hill to supervise the police post.

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