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Too many questions unanswered

By Mohammad Bashir PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 15, 2010) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the daring escape of bank robber William Kapris Nanua and 11 other notorious inmates involved a suspended warder.

The Post-Courier was informed that the man was previously "sidelined" for involvement in an escape by Kapris from the Port Moresby General Hospital in 2008.

HEADS must roll over the rash of escapes from the country’s major prisons, says a major business group.

The breakout of 12 prisoners, including six hardcore convicts, from the maximum security division at Bomana jail outside Port Moresby, disgusted the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce.

"We share the outrage of the police who fought a long battle to put these felons behind bars, only to see them waltz out of PNG’s maximum security prison,’’ a spokesman said yesterday.

He said there were "far too many unanswered questions’’ which the Correctional Services (CS) bosses had tried to silence about the case of convicted escapee and alleged bank robber William Nanua Kapis.

"Can the Commissioner (Richard Sikani) confirm who are the senior people who have been rumored to be visiting Kapis in maximum security,’’ the chamber asked.

"Is it true that officers were warned not to reveal the names of these visitors to the press or the public from the top?

"How can one anonymous phone call allow access by a ‘lawyer’ to our maximum security prison?

"Why is it possible to gain access to a maximum security prison without being checked?’’

The chamber spokesman said the latest breakout was executed by educated people with access to finance and resources and there was reason to suspect "inside involvement’’.

"Why did it take officers over an hour to raise the alarm,’’ he said.

"There are too many nagging questions about this whole incident which makes us wonder how far organized crime has permeated into the higher ranks of our society.’’

"Heads must roll from the top down’’, the spokesman said. The chamber noted that there had been major escapes of more than 50 and 140 prisoners from prisons around the country in recent times.

This showed "how porous’’ our prisons are, he said.

"There is repeated clear disregard for set procedures and the suggestion that this may be deliberate action by guards is a frightening thought.

"It is clear to us that there is a general breakdown in discipline in CS and much of this has to be attributable to the lack of confidence the rank and file continually show in their commissioner and his senior officers.’’

The Commissioner was under investigation and, as would happen in other countries, he should be stood down from active duty until exonerated or otherwise.

A major cleanup was needed in Corrective Services and the Government, "who have been watching this train wreck for months, must act immediately and suspend those responsible’’, the chamber said.

Our prisons had become "like holiday camps with revolving doors’’.

The chamber called on the Government to show the political will to solve the problem once and for all.

The Government should look at outsourcing sections, such as the maximum security unit (MSU), remand and young offenders, to operators who could be held accountable for failures as happened in many countries.

"If CS cannot do the job, let us find someone who can,’’ the chamber said. That same officer (named) was blindfolded at the hospital emergency unit and asked to ring the duty guards at the MSU in the latest episode, it was learnt.

The prisoners were driven to the hospital in the company of the prison medical orderly and the supervisor.

At the hospital, the prisoners were taken to a separate room for check-up while the orderly came out to get some medical documents in the vehicle.

When he returned, he was shocked to see his supervisor blindfolded and ordered to ring the two duty guards at the MSU to expect a female human rights lawyer.

A very senior suspended officer of the CS told this reporter yesterday that he was amazed at how that officer was re-instated when it was known that he had been linked to the previous Kapris escape episode.

The officer is one of the almost 100 CS officers across the country who were suspended but were never charged as per the Public Service General Orders.

While welcoming the Government’s financial commitment and institution of an investigation team, the officer said Commissioner Sikani and Minister Tony Aimo should be suspended forthwith.

"The problems in the CS Department are well known but the minister and commissioner have not been able to rectify them, resulting in this breakout and they should be held fully responsible," he said.

The officer alleged that many firearms from the armory had gone missing including an AR15 firearm and another pistol but it appeared that nothing had been done about it.

Several other senior officers from the CS described the department as a "family company’’ and one that was rotten with corruption.

Someone answered Commissioner Sikani’s mobile phone when contacted and said it was a wrong number when this reporter tried to contact him yesterday.

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