HEADS EXPECTED TO ROLL AT PNG CORRECTIONAL

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Minister to be removed, commissioner suspended

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 20, 2010) - Heads are expected to roll at the Correctional Services today even as police prepare to go all-out to hunt down the 12 prisoners who escaped from Bomana jail on Jan. 12.

Police in other provinces have stepped up surveillance as news and speculation swirl about the whereabouts of the 12 prisoners, including alleged bank robbery mastermind William Kapris.

Government sources said yesterday that Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare summoned Correctional Services Minister Tony Aimo for a meeting yesterday afternoon, and plainly told him what he intends to do.

The sources said Mr. Aimo is expected to be sidelined, or made minister without a portfolio, while Correctional Services Commissioner Richard Sikani is expected to be suspended.

When contacted yesterday, Aimo refused to discuss details of his meeting with the Prime Minister.

"I will let the Prime Minister announce the details of our discussions," he said.

M.r Sikani responded to a call on his mobile, and said he would seek a meeting with Aimo today on the issue.

With the escape of the dangerous prisoners becoming a national security issue, the Government is under increasing pressure to act on what the business community has described as a "deteriorating law and order situation in the country".

Meanwhile, documents made available to The National yesterday show that a brief was provided to Ministern Aimo and other Government figures about maladministration and corruption in the Correctional Services which could result in protests by warders or jailbreaks throughout the country.

This advice was provided in October last year by a senior CS officer who was under suspension.

The brief highlighted a breakdown in the administration of jails, emergence of extraordinary relations between warders and prisoners, misuse of funds, poor living and working conditions for warders, and poor working relations among senior CS officers.

The brief urged that action be taken by the Government to prevent a major crisis.

"The brief was ignored, resulting in the situation confronting us now," an officer who handed the copy of the brief over said.

Meanwhile, police in the NCD are expected to launch a full-scale manhunt for the escapees today.

Funds provided by the National Government for the recapture exercise are expected to reach them today for the operations to begin in earnest.

NCD police are not sufficiently resourced to do their daily work, and the hunt for the escapees was stretching them, until the Government last week announced additional funding for this exercise.

Police in Manus are on a special operation after receiving reports that some of the 12 escapees from Bomana last Tuesday were planning to flee into the province.

Acting provincial police commander Inspector Gabriel Ndrihin told The National yesterday that police officers in the province were monitoring all the shipping vessels and boats arriving in the province.

He added that he has contacted the Bank South Pacific branch in the province to take heed while doing their normal operations, as there were possibilities of armed robberies in the province if some of the escapees had already made their way into the province.

People in the province have been urged to be on the lookout and report any suspicious movements to the police.

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