Australia to send police to lawless PNG


PORT MORESBY: Australia yesterday said it will send 50 police to Papua New Guinea to help tackle chronic law and order problems, a day after armed soldiers attacked people indiscriminately at a hospital.

The incident at the Port Moresby General Hospital occurred just hours before Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd arrived in the capital for talks with his counterpart Peter O’Neill.

The discussions focused on the Pacific nation’s chronic law and order problems, among other issues, with Rudd announcing Australian police officers will be deployed to the country by the end of the year.

“Recognising the importance of law and order to PNG’s economic prosperity, we have agreed importantly that by year’s end Australia will deploy 50 police in visible policing roles in Port Moresby and Lae,” Rudd said.

“Our law and order cooperation won’t stop there, but it is a good start.” Crime and lawlessness in the poverty-stricken nation is a serious concern, including in the capital where last month four Chinese nationals were hacked to death, with one reportedly beheaded and the others dismembered.

Papua New Guinea recently passed harsh new laws reviving the death penalty as it grapples with a wave of violent crime, particularly against women, which has drawn international condemnation.

In the latest incident, armed soldiers broke down the gates to the hospital on Sunday and began attacking people, leaving a medical student seriously injured, in what was believed to be a revenge attack.

Reports said it was payback for an alleged assault by medical students on two soldiers during a dispute over the use of a cash machine at the hospital on Friday night.

Police Commissioner Simon Kauba blasted the soldiers for attacking ‘the very people they have sworn to protect and defend’.

“This is totally uncalled for and unacceptable behaviour by members of a disciplined organisation,” he said in a statement.

“I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms and will ensure that it is thoroughly investigated and those responsible will face the full force of the law.” Kauba said the soldiers arrived at the hospital in a truck armed with guns, machetes and iron bars and smashed down the gates before beginning their assault. At least six shots were fired.

Police brought the matter under control, Kauba said, but the attack left a dental student seriously injured and considerable damage to hospital property. — AFP