PNG PUBLIC KEEPS TABS ON EXPENSIVE POLICE CARS

Editorial

PNG Post Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 14, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG) last week, the PNG Post Courier highlighted a serious transport problem with one of the most important sections of the Police force in Lae city, known for its share of ethnic violence and crime in Papua New Guinea. Police officers with the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Lae city police told the newspaper that they had no vehicle and as a result, they are unable to carry out their work. Their "work" is without doubt the most important part of any police work in the fight against crime and criminals in PNG. Officers attached to this section act on any complaints that are laid with the police. It is the CID officers that investigate the complaints, arrests crime suspects, charge and prepare cases to take to court for prosecution. When the CID officers do not carry out their work properly, the whole business about crime fighting collapses.

The transport problem with the Criminal Investigation Division in Lae highlights the serious and chronic logistic problem confronting the Royal PNG Constabulary. There are sections of the police force that do not have good vehicles to serve their needs. For those that are lucky to have any, many have outlived their use by dates that these cars are costing the police force a hefty sum on maintenance as well as restrict police operations. The aging fleet and the difficult terrain make the work of Police a lot harder.

The Government has recognized the transport problem affecting the police force but it faces a difficult task when it comes to allocating money to re-fleet the entire force, every three years. This will take a substantial part of the police budget and there are other priority areas that need funding as well. The Police force can only replace a few vehicles at a time and these vehicles are given to police stations and sections that really need them.

The situation is also understood by many provincial governments and national parliamentarians. Although law and order is a state function, provincial governments and Members of Parliament take it upon themselves to provide money to buy vehicles for the police force operating in their provinces or electorates. Many of these vehicles cost over 100, 000 kina [US$39,000] and the provincial governors and Members of Parliament had to put up the money, meant for other essential services, because they want their provinces or electorates to be free of crimes. They know that to bring about other services to their people, there must be law and order so they provide the assistance.

On Friday, the Member for Moresby North West Sir Mekere Morauta became the latest parliamentarian to presented two brand new vehicles to the Waigani and Gerehu Police Stations. The vehicles cost over 98,000 kina [US$38,000] each and that is a lot of money. This money rightly belongs to the voters in the Moresby North West electorate and they will be watching how the policemen from the two police stations use the cars. Assistant Commissioner for the National Capital District and Central Fred Skeekiot told his men to take good care of the new vehicles and use them properly. Skeekiot’s words of advice must be taken seriously by his men and all serving members of the police force in Papua New Guinea. The care and use of all police vehicles is a big concern, not only to the police hierarchy but also to members of the public. They watch the cars being misused and mishandled by the policemen and women daily in the pretext of official police work.

On that note, it must be pointed out that the care and use of all government vehicles is a big problem in PNG. Public servants must understand that the vehicles they are driving around, whether for the right reasons or wrong reasons, were bought from public funds. The owners of these cars are the members of the public who are watching them. They expect the public servants to put these cars to good use to bring services to them. It is time public servants must do away with the mentality that the vehicles they use are Government owned, that the Government will buy new ones and that the Government never goes broke. Somebody had to pay for the vehicles and their maintenance and ultimately, it is the public. Public servants owe it to their people to make sure that their right to government services is not denied.

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