PNG Police Told To Stop Arresting People In Hela, Southern Highlands: Jails Are Full

Overcrowding could lead to criminals being released

By James Gumuno

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 1, 2017) – Police in Hela and Southern Highlands have been told to stop arresting people because the cells are overcrowded and there is nowhere else to detain them.

Assistant Police Commissioner Kaiglo Ambane, the Highlands Western End divisional commander, told The National yesterday from Mendi that they had run out of space at the police station cells in Mendi and Tari, and at the Bei-ubi prison.

“I am giving out instructions to the provincial police commanders to stop further arrests until further notice,” he said.

Ambane said the situation would only get worse when the gun amnesty period expired on Feb 28 and the security forces, taking part in the K11 million [US$3.4 million] Government-sanctioned call-out operation, started arresting people still holding guns.

[PIR editor's note: ON Feb. 1, 2017 RNZi reported that 'A senior military official in Papua New Guinea has urged warring tribes to surrender their firearms or face the law at the end of the month. ... An amnesty is in place in the province for illegal firearms after months of tribal fighting and a build-up of high-powered weapons. ... The defence force Joint Task Force Commander said the military would round people up on 28 February if they were still holding onto weapons.']

Ambane said the Bei-ubi jail which could accommodate only 150 currently, had 210 people crammed into it.

The prison commander yesterday refused to take in an extra 16 “high-risk” inmates from Hela.

Ambane said the 16 were taken to the Mendi police station cell, which was already overcrowded and could only accommodate up to 40 people.

“There are more than 40 people in the police cell and is putting more pressure on the Southern highlands provincial police commander in terms of food,” Ambane said.

He said Enga and Hela did not have proper prisons to accommodate those on remand.

They have to be sent to Bei-ubi in Southern Highlands. He said the new Mt Awa prison in Hela was still under construction.

The Mukurumanda correctional service base in Enga has no jail.

“I am now giving orders to my policemen not to make any further arrests because of the overcrowding in the cell blocks,” Ambane said.

Ambane suggests that Government funding be provided immediately to renovate the cells at the Mendi police station and Bei-ubi jail.

On top of that, more police and prison officers should be recruited.

He said they would have no choice but to release people arrested and charged with serious crimes because of the overcrowding problem.

The National
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