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General - current (1/4/03 to date):


Video to explain new voting system A VIDEO showing how the Limited Preferential Voting system (LPV) works is being produced by the Electoral Commission. Acting Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen announced this at the NBC Karai National Radio’s Broadcast House in Port Moresby yesterday. Mr Trawen said it is easy to understand the LPV from seeing how the new system works. LPV is the new way of electing National Parliament lawmakers. On the ballot paper, voters have three choices. They put a number one in the box next to their first-choice candidate, number two for their second choice and number three for their third choice or preference. The winner is declared when she or he has an absolute majority which is more than 50 per cent of all the counted formal votes, says Mr Trawen. The LPV community awareness video will show people how to vote and how the votes are counted, says Mr Trawen. Papua New Guinea advertising house PacificView Multimedia (PVM), owned by its creative director Andrew Johnston, is making the LPV video for the Electoral Commission. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is paying PVM to produce the video and other LPV community awareness material like radio-television commercials, how-to-vote LPV posters, the National LPV Election Guide and the LPV Flipchart to be used in fieldwork by election officials to show how LPV works. PVM represents CNN and the Discovery Channel in Papua New Guinea and does work for Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV, said Mr Trawen.

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ARMED policemen yesterday lay siege on Enga’s provincial headquarters for two hours in Wabag. Public servants were left in a state of panic, shock and confusion as fully armed mobile squad policemen took over the centre, threatening the provincial administrator to pay them for unpaid allowances under gunpoint. Six members of the Enga police mobile squad, armed with guns and in field police dress, walked into the Ipatas Centre at 11am and forced security guards to allow them access to the offices. They confiscated all the keys to the doors in the building. The media unit in Enga reported that all public servants were locked in by the armed policemen for two hours in their offices. Members of the unit said the provincial law and order adviser was threatened under gunpoint to release funds, which the squad members claimed were allowances owed to them for working during the campaign period in the 2002 national elections. The adviser told the armed policemen he did not have any funds and directed the men to the Provincial Administrator Mark Yapao. Mr Yapao was also told under the barrel of the gun to sign cheques for the men they claimed were their allowances. Mr Yapao refused to pay the gunmen under gunpoint. It was not clear how the situation was defused as no official could be contacted to confirm or deny the incident. According to information from Wabag, public servants were allowed to leave the building after two hours. Governor Peter Ipatas could not be reached for comments as he was out of the province yesterday. The provincial police commander also could not be reached yesterday. The media unit officers said keys to offices at the Ipatas Centre were returned two hours after the initial “take-over’’ by the six policemen. Public servants returned to work in the afternoon but were still in shock.

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Police beat up errant polling official PARAMILITARY police at a Papua New Guinea election counting room yesterday bashed a polling official in front of Australian Government aid officials. Two female AusAID officials observing the count were left shocked by the incident in Mendi, capital of PNG’s Southern Highlands Province. Several mobile squad policemen slammed an assistant presiding officer’s head into the counting room wall before beating him up in the stairwell, witnesses said. Reporters, hearing the victim’s shrieks from the level below, rushed outside the building to find police standing over the victim, who was screaming and holding his hands over his eyes. The victim was let out of the building’s front gates after an AAP journalist arrived at the scene with a camera and started taking photographs. A policeman standing over the victim then demanded that no further photos be taken. Senior Electoral Commission official Frank Gabi also confronted the journalist and told him not to take photographs. When the journalist followed Mr Gabi into his office to seek an explanation for the attack, Mr Gabi ordered him not to report the incident. In front of his staff, the provincial election manager said any report would make the elections look bad and demean Papua New Guinea. “You’re blackening the name of PNG,” Mr Gabi said. Australian aid officials are observing the count in six national seats because Australia has spent $A1.2 million on transport for the poll. Results in the six Highland seats were nullified after last year’s national election because of violence and intimidation. Witnesses from the counting room confirmed the man had been assaulted by police and dragged into the stairwell. “He was smacked and beaten right in front of a senior AusAID official,” said one witness, who asked not to be named. A spokesman for the Electoral Commission later said the victim had been trying to perform an illegal act — attempting to have some informal “unsigned” votes signed by an official. Last week, reporters watched a scrutineer being roughed-up and ejected from the same counting room. More than 2000 police, soldiers and warders are engaged in election security work.

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WHETHER the events that took place at Port Moresby's Six Mile Police Station were the result of ill-advised action by trigger happy police, or the outcome of a carefully calculated agenda to further smear and discredit the reputation of the RPNG Constabulary remains to be seen. But there have been enough proven incidents recorded against the police over the past three decades to warrant at the very least marked public apprehension about their role and behaviour. Papua New Guinea has previously dealt with these periodic accusations and rebuttals by two main means -- the courts and internal police investigations. The public will never give full credibility to the latter approach, no matter how logical or clear-cut the case for the police may appear. The public attitude towards police investigating police, and doing so behind closed doors is clear. Nothing is proven. This situation of mistrust is worsened by the frequent failureof the police to make public the results of these internal investigations. The approach to the courts also has its drawbacks. For a start, the delays in hearing such cases can be lengthy and simply add to public frustrations. PNG is very far from being alone in these matters, and the concern felt by its citizens about the control and implementation of the police force is common to a surprisingly large number of overseas countries. Britain has only recently emerged from a divisive national examination of its police force, in particular its attitude towards policing racially sensitive issues. Accusations that far from keeping the peace between differing ethnic groups, the police took action to exacerbate already fragile situations have been proven true. This painful external examination of the British police already appears to have made some impact for the better. Nearer to home, Australia's police forces have for a generation been shaken by occasional accusations and revelations of a most serious nature. Once again, external and impartial examination of the facts has seen dozens of the most senior officers in NSW dismissed, some jailed, and others demoted. Much the same has taken place in Victoria and again in Queensland. And Western Australia is presently embroiled in a Royal Commission into its Force that has so far revealed brutality, torture and a general pattern of behaviour on the part of a minority of police that makes a mockery of their supposed law-enforcing and peace-keeping community role. Could it be that PNG needs to follow a similar path? For too long accusations have been made against the police in this country, ranging from brutal and senseless murder to graft and corruption on a grand scale, alleged gang and political connections, sly grog, prostitution and a host of other claims. Their truth or otherwise can probably only emerge at the hands of a fearless and far-reaching investigation with virtually unlimited powers. It may be that the time has come for such a full-scale examination of the police to take place. Certainly matters cannot be allowed to continue as they are at present. The whole purpose of having a police force is to maintain law and order. If that force is the source of illegal actions and disorder, the situation makes a mockery of our efforts to achieve transparency, accountability and a widely recognised and admired democratic state. Given that the police force consumes a sizeable proportion of the national budget, and that the spread of criminal acts and general lawlessness in the country is accelerating, urgent and far-reaching action is clearly indicated. Certainly one of the most important aspects of this issue is that our problems are no worse than those of a significant number of other countries. Corrupt policemen and manipulative criminals are a global problem. We are accusrtomed o seeing nations such as Australia through rose-coloured spectacles as the land of law and order, a haven of civic pride and peace. It is nothing of the sort, nor are many other developed countries around the world. The significant difference between PNG and these countries may only be that they have had time to devise formal legal systems calculated to deal with this type of problem as it occurs. Clean the blackboard. Start again. Conduct a Royal Commission into the operations of the RPNG Constabulary, in the interests of the members of the force, and crucially the public whom they are sworn to serve and protect.

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INVESTIGATIONS are now underway into the shooting at Six-Mile police station on Monday, says NCD/Central police commander Geoffrey Vaki. Mr Vaki was referring to the incident which involved the death of a Simbu man on at Six-Mile. A man was shot dead while the other four wounded are in serious conditions, which took place at the police station when the police opened fire to disperse a rowdy Simbu crowd. He said the shooting would be investigated and this would include the two parties and a coroner’s inquest for the man who was shot dead. “As soon as we finish the investigations then the person(s) involved in this confrontation will be dealt with,” he said. Attempts made to confirm the conditions of the four injured at the Port Moresby General hospital were unsuccessful.

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A MAJOR landslide on the Wara-Tamba section of the Highlands Highway in Chimbu province that threw traffic movements into chaos was finally cleared over the weekend. The much needed reconstruction work was carried out by Chimbu provincial Works Department under heavy police security, because tensions were very high among disgruntled Wara Tamba landowners who had demanded compensation. Landowners demanded K365,000 from the Works Department and K20,000 from the government as bel-kol moni prior to any reconstruction work on the landslide affected portion of the highway. However, Chimbu police personnel swiftly moved in on Saturday morning to disperse the rowdy landowners after which repair works could proceed. Chimbu provincial Works Engineers Peter Siwi spearheaded and supervised the reconstruction work that began on Saturday and ended yesterday afternoon. He said normal traffic flow would be restored today. Dekenai Construction Company provided the heavy equipment used in the highway repair work during the weekend. The Wara Tamba landslide which lasted more than a week has cut off major highlands centres of Kundiawa, Mt Hagen, Wabag, Mendi and resources development sites of Porgera, Kutubu, Hides and Moran from receiving regular supplies of basic cargoes and fuels. Reports from these centres indicated shortages of basic food items, sugar and fuel supplies. A coffee buyer in the Chimbu province John Konokula said business in the region was likely to grind to a halt if the roadblock continued. He said PMV fares have already increased by 100 per cent as fuel supplies in Chimbu province has already run out of stock. Mr Konokula said few four-wheel drive vehicle owners who made it through the landslide to Goroka fetched fuels in 44-gallon drums and were selling it at K10 a litre in Kundiawa. "The reopening of the highway is good news for businesses and the general public in the highlands region," he said. However, restoration of the basic services and fuel supply in the region is still uncertain at this stage because all trucking companies who freight fuel and cargoes in and out of the region had withdrawn their trucks off the highlands highway last week.

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SHP VOTE ON (Post-Courier 28/4/03)

The deployment of more than 2000 soldiers and police ensured a calm start to polling in the Southern Highlands, where authorities are desperate to avoid the mayhem of last year’s national vote. More than 100 died in election violence last year across the gun-ridden Highlands, forcing the vote to be cancelled in six of the nine Southern Highlands seats. The supplementary poll kicked off at the weekend amid massive security, including half the nation’s police force. With heavily-armed police squads and soldiers deployed throughout the disqualified electorates, acting Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen was confident there would be no repeat of the widespread intimidation and cheating of last June. Voting commenced peacefully in the Koroba-Lake Kopiago electorate yesterday, before moving progressively through the province over the next fortnight. There were no reports of violence on Saturday, but police at Koroba arrested two men for double voting. Authorities have engaged a small fleet of military and civil helicopters to transport officials and voting materials in and out of far-flung villages. As the voting finishes in each area the helicopters take the ballot boxes to less remote areas with airstrips accessed by powerful aircraft such as the Twin Otter. Australia, which contributed K3 million to help pay for the helicopters, also has teams of officials in the province assessing the operations. The election is seen as a crucial test for democracy in PNG, which is increasingly worrying overseas aid donors such as Australia, which gives $350 million each year to its former colony.

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Editor: I've included this particular news clipping to exemplify the gratuitous "pack rape" phenomena that is characteristic of much crime in PNG.

CHILD RAPED (Post-Courier 25/4/03)

A FAMILY has fled overseas after a nine-year-old girl was raped by a gang of criminals in a Port Moresby suburb. The burglars broke into the Three-Mile Hill house, bound and gagged a man, his wife and teenage daughter and subjected the girl, 9, to a night of rape. Family friends of the victims said an attempt was made to rape the girl’s mother but was not persevered with. Instead, the eight to 10 burglars who broke into the house at about 2am on April 11 took the younger child to a side and raped her. The pack-rapists, if caught, in this case could be jailed for life. According to family law experts, the recent changes to laws on sexual offences included a possible life term for sexual penetration of a child. Police from Badili station had the first dealings with the case and a senior officer yesterday confirmed the details of the attack. He said the case had been transferred to the CID break-ins squad at Boroko. Attempts to speak to metropolitan police commander Emmanuel Hela and NCD/ Central commander Geoffrey Vaki during this week were unsuccessful. Friends of the family say the husband and wife and children flew out to Australia soon after the attack, principally to get medical and counselling care for the young victim. They were told that the child’s mother had an argument with “street people’’ earlier and speculated that the night attack might have been in retaliation for that run-in.

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Trucking stops in H’lds TRUCKING companies have ceased all transport operations into the Highlands region following threats received by local landowners along the Wara Tamba and Wandi sections of the Highlands Highway. The decision to cease operations was made during an emergency meeting convened by the Road Transport Association (RTA) in Lae early this week. The meeting was attended by members of RTA, oil companies and chambers of commerce. The meeting heard that attempts by the Department of Works to repair this portion of the highway in the Chimbu Province was foiled due to compensation demands from landowners with little support from police in the area. RTA chairman Chris Carter said companies had received threats to hijack and burn loaded fuel tankers. Mr Carter described these threats as being real, adding this could result in the loss of life and equipment. “... A unanimous decision was made to cease all transport operations beyond Goroka until safe passage for trucks and drivers can be guaranteed,” he said. The Post-Courier understands another meeting was scheduled yesterday by RTA with all police divisional commanders in an effort to rectify the situation. Meanwhile, several major trucking firms, including Mountain Freighters, have already been forced to ground their operations out of Lae City into the Highlands. Company manager Klaus Dorrich said as of April 17 the company had grounded the operations of a total of 21 trucks with fuel destined for Porgera, Enga Province. Mr Dorrich said the company was responsible for the daily shipment of 200,000 litres of fuel into Porgera. “The fuel will not be shipped until the Government moves to settle this problem and workers’ safety is guranteed,” he said. Porgera Joint Venture’s (PJV) mine manager Peter Neilans also raised concerns about the situation. Mr Neilans said PJV had yet to feel the negative effects, however, he added operations would be affected if the situation was prolonged. “We (PJV) are already down by 50 per cent of our fuel supplies. What we now have is enough for two weeks of full production,” Mr Neilans said. He said the company would be forced to readajust its production schedule if the problem was not resolved quickly. ABCO Transport, another major Lae-based trucking company, also raised similar concerns. Manager Edward McCardel called on the Government to immediately address the issue because business interests across all sectors would be affected.

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HIGHLANDS CENTRES CUT OFF by John Apami and Zachery Per (The National 22/4/03)

A LANDSLIP near Kundiawa in Simbu province has cut off the Highlands Highway, denying road access to major Highlands centres and vital resource development projects in the region. The landslip, caused by continuous heavy rain in the area, occurred last week at Wara Tamba, several kilometres outside of Kundiawa, where the highway runs through to Goroka and onto Lae and Madang. In the last five days, huge trucks that normally ferry goods from Lae to Kundiawa, Mt Hagen, Mendi, Wabag, Porgera, Tari, and Kutubu, have had to stop in Goroka, waiting for the highway to be cleared. Trucks, PMV buses and other vehicles heading into Goroka, Lae and Madang from these centres have had to cue up in Kundiawa. The situation has been further complicated by demands by landowners for the government to pay them compensation before any work can start to reopen the highway. A leader in the area, councilor John Gora of Mata village, said they would not back down until the government pays them compensation. His people have taken advantage of the situation by constructing a detour for smaller vehicles, and are charging K10 for every vehicle that passes through. Police from the nearby Masul Police Station are monitoring the situation but they appear powerless as travelers and motorists have complained of harassment and threats from locals. With continuous rain in the area, there are real fears of more landslides in the area. All trucking firms operating in the region have ordered their drivers to remain in either Goroka or Kundiawa. Police sources in Kundiawa yesterday said that three youths were arrested for allegedly harassing passengers at the weekend but they have been released on bail. Shell PNG Ltd fuel freighter driver John Dima had to turn back from Chuave on Thursday last week after discovering that he could not pass through. Mr Dima told The National in Goroka after turning back that youths from Chuave attempted to steal his spare tyres and drain his fuel. He contacted his bosses in Lae from Goroka and was ordered to return to Lae with the 36,600 litres of kerosene bound for one of shell's Mount Hagen outlets. One of the stranded highway drivers, Steven Bill, yesterday told The National in front of Goroka police station that several drivers have left the trucks in Goroka and got on PMVs to their homes. "They know that the problem will not be rectified soon so they have gone to stay with their families for the Easter weekend," Mr Bill said. He said others have turned back to Lae with their Highlands bound cargoes and fuel. There are more than 50 trucks bound for Highlands centres including Porgera, Kutubu and Tari stranded in Goroka now. Mr Bill also said that many trucks, which are loaded to travel to the Highlands, are also waiting in their yards in Lae. Processed green bean coffee from Western Highlands, Enga, Southern Highlands and Chimbu province are also left stranded in Kundiawa or Mount Hagen in containers on trucks. Exporters have feared that the coffee would miss their strictly scheduled timetables to be shipped overseas. Tea exports and vegetable produced in the Highlands for Lae, Madang and Port Moresby markets.

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PUNCH UP FOR NARCOTICS JOB (Post-Courier 10/4/03)

Punch up for narcotics job THE tussle over the top job of the National Narcotics Bureau turned nasty yesterday when the office was stormed by one group. The situation turned bloody when the acting director-general of the bureau John Patrick and his staff tried to resist the group from taking over. The commotion attracted armed policemen to the bureau’s Six-Mile office in Port Moresby. They fired shots to disperse the crowd. Mr Patrick and some of his workers suffered cuts to their faces and had puffed-up faces from punches during the scuffle. Their clothes were stained with blood. Police said a candidate for the top job, Paita Towo, and his supporters seized the office and later took off in the bureau’s bus while those resisting marched down to the Six-Mile police station to lodge a complaint. Police later followed the sky-blue mini-bus and directed it back to the station where they locked it up on orders of the chairman of the National Narcotics Control Board Sam Bonner. Mr Bonner arrived at the police station and directed that the appointment of the director-general be reserved until he and Police Minister Yawa Silupa deliberated on the matter. Mr Bonner and Mr Towo reportedly exchanged heated arguments at the police station where Mr Towo refused to accept Mr Bonner’s directives. Police said a group aligned to Mr Towo, with some security guards seized the bureau after knocking down the door at about 9.30am. They arrived displaying documents purporting to show Mr Towo’s appointment to the job by Mr Silupa. The situation, however, got out of hand when Mr Patrick was assaulted as he tried to intervene to find out the authenticity of the purported appointment. The fight over the top job of the bureau has been going on since Mr Silupa purportedly appointed Mr Towo and a John Mapusa while incumbent David Ericho was still in the chair. The situation got to a stage where an aggrieved Mr Ericho took the Minister and the two purportedly appointed director-generals — Mr Towo and Mr Mapusa — to court, claiming the Minister had not followed correct procedures in the appointments and sought orders to nullify them. But the court last Thursday refused to grant orders sought by Mr Ericho, and instead lifted an injunction slapped on the Minister and Mr Mapusa from making further appointments or taking up the post. Mr Bonner said he had appointed Deputy Director-General Mr Patrick to run the office until a suitable candidate was appointed through the normal public service selection process.

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US CITES PNG ON 'ABUSES' (Post-Courier 2/4/03)

US cites PNG on ‘abuses’ WASHINGTON: Human rights in three Pacific states — Papua New Guinea, Solomons and Tonga — were declining sharply with random killings and detentions taking place in the first two and an inability to change the government in the third, the US State Department’s latest human rights report said. The report said PNG had serious problems. “Police committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, used excessive force when arresting and interrogating suspects, and engaged in excessively punitive and violent raids,” it said. The report said the Solomon Islands, which has suffered a civil war for four years, had a poor record in the past year. Successive governments, including that led by current Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza, had limited success in restoring peace because of political and institutional weakness and a public perception that leaders were beholden to one of the conflicting parties. On the Kingdom of Tonga the report said “it is a constitutional monarchy in which political life is dominated by the King and a few prominent commoners. “The government’s human rights record remained poor; although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained,” it said.

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