PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 9, 2008) - Discipline is one of the most prominent words in the dictionary for policemen and policewomen. It is at the very core of their existence.

Without discipline, a police force can become a bunch of thugs with a uniform. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary is the formal name for our police force. It is an organization with a grand history, and that is one reason why the monarch who heads the Commonwealth granted permission for our constabulary to attach the word "royal" to the name. That happened of course in that part of our history when there were only men in the force and they wore ‘sulu’ (men’s wrap around skirt) and shorts; traffic police wore white colonial-looking hats and white gloves. A lot has happened since.

Now we have allegations that police have actively aided criminals to hold the town of Kainantu to ransom while they took what they wanted from market sellers. Also, that some police saved the gang members from the clutches of angry villagers and later set them free without doing anything about their serious crimes. Not all of the evidence is in hand on this matter. But it is sufficiently worrying to thicken the file of evidence that the aspect of discipline is still a major concern for police higher-ups.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki has done an excellent job so far, taking over the force at a time when there was rampant rivalry at upper levels and misconduct at lower levels. He has also managed to quell the dissent at upper levels with persuasion and appears to have many in the force working well and with an appearance of teamwork. But there are recurring episodes of poor behavior among scattered elements of the force that must be causing continuing concern for the hierarchy at Konedobu. There was an incident the other day where some police got upset at other police allegedly supplying arms to criminals. Instead of raiding and arresting the errant police, their colleagues assaulted them. Maybe they felt it was the only way to deal with the offenders, that the "system’’ would allow them to go unpunished otherwise. That in itself is a sign of poor discipline. So also is the continuing episodes of policemen stealing street vendors’ meager takings and assaulting them. It is also worrying that the first arrests in the pornography investigation are three policemen. It’s a good sign in that arrests are being made, but worrying that police have been implicated in this kind of conduct. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We wish Mr. Baki and his assistants all the best in their efforts to reshape the force and re-instill the discipline for which the Constabulary was once famous.

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