U.S. Security Firm To Provide 'Elite' Paramilitary Training To PNG Police

Armed foreigners seen around town raises questions

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, May 16, 2017) – Papua New Guinea's police commissioner has confirmed the presence of an American firm in the country for paramilitary training.

Comments from Gary Baki came in response to reports of armed expatriate men accompanying PNG police on the streets of Port Moresby.

Mr Baki has told local media that the US-based Laurence Aviation & Security Group has been engaged by PNG's Constabulary to provide "elite" training.

He says the company is to train PNG forces to provide security while hosting next year's APEC summit.

Mr Baki says he decided to hire the firm after being approached last year by the president of the company, Peter Halliman, an American citizen who grew up in PNG.

Laurence is staffed by former US military and police personnel.

They are to train 100 staff from various wings of PNG's police force including the Air Tactical Unit and Mobile Squads, as well as ten personnel from each of the Defence Force and Correctional Service.

The confirmation of the presence of the firm in PNG comes amid a period of heightened security risks as the country approaches polling for its five-yearly elections.

While the PNG police and other security forces play a key role in the elections, these agencies appear to be struggling due to funding and resourcing constraints.

Transparency International PNG has highlighted the issue in the wake of last Friday's fatal shooting of 17 escaped prisoners in Lae.

Meanwhile, a former PNG prime minister has called for an investigation into the presence of the American paramilitary firm in PNG, describing them as "US mercenaries".

Sir Mekere Morauta said in the interest of public safety the Ombudsman's Commission should investigate the mercenary deal starting with the legal and financial aspects of it he called on Gary Baki to immediately suspend the initiative.

Mr Morauta said the commissioner's statement to the media raised more questions than it answered.

"Mr Baki claims that the arrangements are for APEC security, yet the Prime Minister has said publicly that he knew nothing about it," said Sir Mekere.

"Was this deal raised at last week's APEC Security Partners' Working Group meeting and have the Australia, New Zealand and US partners at that meeting been advised of the deal?"

Radio New Zealand International
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