Opposition Leader Slams Plan To Sack PNGDF Commander

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Namah says move to hire retired officers ‘nepotism at highest level’

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 31, 2012) – Opposition Leader Belden Namah has strongly condemned moves by Papua New Guinea’s Defence Minister to reinstate two retired colonels describing it as outrageous and a very dangerous trend.

He said the move was a major setback for an army that was reeling from all sorts of problems and adding fuel to fire in terms of discipline in the army.

"The move by the Minister and Government is undermining the serving members of the Defence Force, especially the full colonels who have made their way up the rank and are prepared to take on the leadership position in the Defence Force," Mr. Namah said.

"The move undermines the integrity of the Defence Force and it is very dangerous for the morale and discipline of PNG Defence Force. This is one of the dangerous decisions that the Government of O’Neill-Dion has made since taking office.

"They have made bad decisions like Solwara mining, K6 billion [US$2.8 billion] loan from China, illegally establishing the asylum seekers centre on Manus Island, bad decisions like bringing in 89 kiaps (from Australia) and relocating Murray Barracks," the former soldier said.

Mr. Namah, together with Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Tobias Kulaung, said in a media conference yesterday that even more disturbing was that the Minister was attempting to bring back into the army two retired colonels from the same province, with the intention of appointing one of them to the commander’s post.

"This is nepotism at the highest level. When are we going stop this kind of wantok system, promoting wantoks into position when we know that they are not capable of running that particular organization. This is not a private business. This is not a family business.

"The Defence Force has gone through a lot of challenges and this move by the Minister is very dangerous. We have not addressed the outstanding issue of ex-servicemen’s entitlements in the Defence Force, Police and Correctional Services.

"As the leader of the Opposition, I call on the current commander (Brig Gen Francis Agwi) to stand his ground and reject the Minister’s demand to reinstate the two former colonels. I also call on the Prime Minister to abandon the idea completely.

"Our military and its personnel deserve some respect from their Government. We as political leaders ought to be responsible and supportive of our servicemen and women in all our disciplined services. After all, we will only harvest what we sow," he said.

Mr. Namah was responding to reports that Defence Minister Dr. Fabian Pok was working on a Cabinet submission to have Commander Francis Agwi replaced in the New Year and that he has also written a letter to Commander Agwi to reinstate two retired Colonels in Geoffrey Wiri and Joe Kewa.

He added that PNGDF had a new breed of leaders holding the rank of full colonels among whom a new commander must be appointed.

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