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Police spokesman: ‘Violence to be expected’ in Highlands

By Jayne Safihao

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 20, 2012) – A security plan for the national election is not yet ready, according to a police intelligence unit source.

According to the source, officers’ deployment should have taken three months starting last October.

But the officers were still awaiting instructions, he said. Any instructions now would be "too late" to cover the four regions.

This may cast doubts in the minds of eligible voters being assured of a free, fair and safe election during these pre-election operations.

But dispelling these doubts, director of police media Supt. Dominic Kakas said a security plan was in place and that it would have to be finalized before it could be disseminated.

He did not however specify what was contained in the brief that would be forthcoming.

Kakas said for the past five years, plans for the security operations had been done and that a budget of K130 million [US$62.4] was in place to cover everything from logistics to manpower for the election.

However, the well-placed source said if such a security operation was in, then those from the intelligence unit had not been deployed since.

Only five weeks remain before the writs are issued.

"From intelligence reports, we are aware of heavy gun smuggling in exchange for marijuana and cash taking place along the border areas of Vanimo and Western province. Guns are being taken up to the highlands, and these are sophisticated guns such as AK47 and sub-machine guns. And the police and the electoral office is saying that all is well," he said.

The source asked how much of the current police intelligence report, if any, was being collected and included to draw a security plan which Kakas said was to be completed.

"If there are any statistics of a brief describing possible security threats throughout the country, why is it taking too long to come out? Voters need to be aware of what is going on in and around their electorate."

Kakas, however, said that election violence was to be expected in parts of the highlands provinces.

He said that a rollover program had been planned for 2,000 personnel as part of their contingency plan to quell violence on whatever scale.

The National has been informed that past intelligence reports used by the police came from the PNG Defence Force as police data was poor.

The source said that because of such, it was important that first-hand information on the ground should be collected from police intelligence themselves.

An initial plan to send members throughout the country with a two-week interval in each province has been cancelled due to various reasons with teams now to be sent to designated hot spots only.

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