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A collection of news items relating to the one of the most damaging problems in PNG today, the "gun" culture. To win a dispute, you hire a group of armed mercenaries who now rank "pari passu" with all other participants in the subsequent compensation and settlement process. Carrying a concealed weapon? no way, no concealment of weapons nowadays, why not pose for the front page of the national daily, in the immortal words of the "Ghostbusters", who are you going to call ...

"Warriors on a peace mission"? crap; mercenaries, thugs, rapists and criminals come to be paid off, no "noble savages" here ...

ONE GUN FOR 180 (Post-Courier 23/5/03)

THERE is one licensed gun for every 180 people in Papua New Guinea. That does take into account the number of illegal guns in the country. The figures from police records revealed that there are about 27,000 civilian firearms licensed in the country. Record shows 22,985 civilians had shotguns, 1998 were pistol holders and 2520 had rifles. It is widely believed a substantial amount of weapons, whether they be shotguns or automatic weapons, are illegally in the hands of Papua New Guineans around the country. Weapons and ammunition are also smuggled into the country and up into the Highlands region on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Defence Force Commander Brigadier-General Peter Ilau confirmed last year 300 military weapons, mostly from the Bougainville crisis, were still unaccounted for. Police in the East New Britain also confirmed weapons were sold from Bougainville to the rest of the country for large amounts of money. A police headquarters spokesman said police officers do not have to be license holders to carry firearms while on duty. He said there were different categories by which the registrar of firearms used to issue the civilians with the firearm license.

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Firearms export to PNG banned Manufacturers impose ban on firearms, ammunition to PNG INTERNATONAL manufacturers have imposed a ban on firearms and ammunition coming into Papua New Guinea, Police Commissioner Sam Inguba has revealed. Mr Inguba said ammunition and firearms manufacturing countries have imposed the export ban because of human rights abuses and escalating violent crimes involving firearms in the country. Mr Inguba was commenting on concerns raised in Parliament which stated that Australia had clamped down on the sale of firearms and ammunition to PNG. South Fly MP Conrad Haoda told Parliament that people in his electorate relied on bullets to go hunting for meat and he urged Inter-Government Minister Sir Peter Barter to look into the matter and report back to Parliament. Morobe Governor Mr Luther Wenge also said in Parliament that PNG was a free country and it should not be dictated to by Australia. He said he had gone to a gun-dealer to buy a pistol for his personal safety and protection but the dealer said it no longer sold guns. It was also reported that licensed firearms dealers had run out of ammunition to supply to licensed subsistence hunters, firearm holders and gun clubs. Mr Haoda also called on the Government to make it possible for PNG to import ammunition from Indonesia. But Mr Inguba pointed out that the Government had not imposed a moratorium on the selling or importing of ammunition to PNG as perceived by some licensed dealers. The Police Commissioner, who is currently on his way to attend a regional crime meeting in Brisbane, Australia, said a moratorium that is currently in place only applies to a ban on the issuance of new gun licenses. It does not apply to ammunition. He said PNG does not have jurisdiction over what other countries do regarding their goods and his department is only an approving authority for the importation of firearms and ammunition to PNG. Mr Inguba said there was little he could do if those countries chose not to grant approval to export ammunition to PNG. "Unless these countries lift the ban on the export of ammunition to PNG, the country would continue to face a shortage of ammunition," Mr Inguba said. Mr Inguba said history showed that prohibition rarely worked and only affected the law-abiding citizens. "Criminals who possess illegal or unlicensed firearms would find ways of bringing ammunition into the country," said the Police Commissioner. Mr Inguba said the ban imposed by other countries on the export of ammunition also included the export of firearms to PNG.

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FREE UP AMMO (Post-Courier 14/5/03)

Free up ammo POLICE chief Sam Inguba has called on foreign countries to lift the ban on export of ammunition to the country in order to prevent a shortage of ammunition. Mr Inguba, commenting on recent concerns about the shortage of ammunition for resale from licensed PNG ammunition dealers to subsistence hunters, licensed firearm holders and licensed gun clubs, said licensed ammunition dealers had been out of stock of all calibre of ammunition since last year. He said the Government had not imposed a moratorium on the sale or the import of ammunition to PNG. The current moratorium only applied to a ban on the issue of new gun licenses and not ammunition. “The fault lies with countries that sell ammunition. These countries have placed an export ban of ammunition to PNG because of concerns of human rights abuses and the increase of the number of violent crimes committed involving firearms,” he said. Mr Inguba said although police were the approving authority for the importation of firearms and ammunition, there was little the police or the Government could do if the exporting country did not approve export of ammunition to PNG.

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GUN CONCERN (Post-Courier 8/5/03)

THE Australian government’s alleged control of r the gun and ammunition trade in PNG created heated debate in Parliament yesterday. South Fly MP Conrad Haoda raised concern over what he said was the handicapping of hunters in his district by a stop put in Australia to the importing of ammunition by PNG. He said this had adversely affected his people who depended on their hunting guns for their livelihood. He asked for an explanation on his concerns the Australian government seemed to have undercut the importing of ammunition to PNG. Governor for Morobe Luther Wenge also expressed similar concerns. Mr Wenge said he was shown a letter in Lae by an ammunition dealer stating that the Australian Defence Ministry had placed restrictions on the importation of guns to PNG went. Both Governor Wenge and Mr Haoda asked Minister for Inter-Government Relations Sir Peter Barter to check on their concerns. Mr Wenge asked if this was true then “what is Australia to PNG? “PNG is an independent state and we should decide what is imported,” he said.

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Weapons trade flourishing ILLEGAL buyers of weapons from Bougainville are ready to pay thousands of kina to purchase weapons from the island. Officer in charge of criminal division in East New Britain Province Senior Inspector Peter Kusub said yesterday police had confiscated a rifle in the province that was destined for the Highlands last month. A man had paid K40,000 for the weapon. Defence Force Commander Brigadier General Peter Ilau has told the Post-Courier around 300 weapons and ammunition were missing from the Defence Force and most of them were from Bougainville.

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INVESTIGATIONS into the four high-powered firearms that went missing three weeks ago from the PNG Defence Force headquarters at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby is still continuing, according to Metropolitan Superintendent Emmanuel Hela. Mr Hela confirmed on Friday that the detectives are working closely with the Defence Force personnel to find out how the weapons disappeared from where they were kept. It is likely that they would come up with the possible suspects, Mr Hela added. The weapons, believed to have been stolen, include two M16 A1 machine guns, a grenade launcher, and two carbine machine guns similar to the police issue AR 15 assault rifles. The weapons were reported to have been at the Murray Barracks supply armoury when they disappeared under suspicious circumstances. It was not known whether soldiers were involved and if there were guards on duty when the firearms went missing. The PNGDF hierarchy has not commented on the incident but left the matter for police to do the investigations. But it is understood that authorities in Murray Barracks are closing in on some suspects in the internal PNGDF investigations that are underway. Four years ago, the armory at the Taurama Barracks was broken into and many weapons were stolen. Many of these weapons were never recovered and authorities believe some found their way into the hands of tribal warlords and criminals in the highlands region.

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NINE DEAD IN FIGHT (Post-Courier 27/11/02)

NINE people have reportedly been killed in a tribal fight between two warring clans in Enga. The fight has erupted near the Amapiak Lutheran International High School — 30km out of Wabag. And police in Wabag have deployed a mobile squad to camp out in the school grounds to protect the school and its property. A highly placed police source told the Post Courier yesterday the fight started between the Ambulins and the Wapukins clans following the death of a man recently. The source said the Wapukin clan has lost seven lives in the fight while the Ambulins have lost two. He said police were there to broker peace but the fight was still raging. The source said both sides were using high-powered weapons in the fight. He said the two warring clans were fighting in the night, because of the police presence at Amapiak. The policeman said this made the job of police in trying to stop the fight difficult. He described the type of fight engaged by both sides as “hide and seek’’. The source said the general situation of the area was quiet but tense, with road users to Wabag and Porgera safe as the policemen were patrolling the area regularly. He said police had enough manpower to stop the fight but the problem was the fighting was going on at night.

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FORTY-FIVE houses were burnt to the ground and food and livestock worth thousands of kina were destroyed in a council president election-related conflict in Western Highlands last Thursday. Mr Ulg said the Ganaga people had thought that one of their councillors who had intended to vie for the president’s seat of the Nebilyer council was going to make it. But he said that without their knowledge, this councillor backed out and threw his support behind Nebilyer president-elect John Yama. With the support from the Gangag councillor, president Yama defeated former president Anton Pip by 20 votes to 14. When the Ganaga people heard of this, they attacked the neighbouring Palingas. Mr Ulg said one man from the Palinga clan sustained a knife wound to his leg when he tried to stop the raiders from torching his house. Mr Ulg said it was regrettable what had happened but his people have said that they will not retaliate. Since last week, the Palingas have faced a hard time because they have no houses. The matter has been reported to police but the Post-Courier was unable to get any comments from police yesterday.

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GUN TERROR IN CHIMBU (Post-Courier 22/7/02)

TWO men were shot dead and children, women and old people were forced to jump into the Wahgi river by gunmen who terrorised a Chimb village early Friday. Many of the villagers are still missing — believed to have drowned. The early morning “surprise” raid was election related. Several people received bullet wounds, more than 100 houses were burnt down and a large number of coffee trees and garden food were destroyed. The raid was allegedly by the Kirwai Goma clan on the Nolka Goma Clan in Gorr in the Kundiawa-Gembogl electorate. One of the men shot dead was a local church pastor. In a related incident on Saturday morning, Kundiawa police arrested a candidate and several of his supporters and locked them up. The candidate was allegedly to be in possession of an unlicensed hand gun. According to eye witnesses, the candidate and his supporters chased a supporter of another candidate from the Nolka Goma clan in the middle of Kundiawa town to the Back Parkers Lodge where he took refuge. Police quickly chased, arrested and charged the candidate and his supporters. In the Friday morning raid, a former MP and national minister Peter Kuman’s Nolka Goma clan was surrounded and attacked by a rival candidate’s clansmen. Most of the people were still in bed — especially women, children and old people — who when woken up by the gun shots headed for the Wahgi river. In the confusion, two men were shot dead as the clan fled. All houses belonging to Mr Kuman’s people were burnt down. The people have taken refuge with the Enduka, Bandi, Pome and Kumai clans. Provincial police chief Samson Mapi has sent a mobile squad to the areas restore order. In a separate incident, a candidate for the Kerowagi electorate received bullet wounds on his head after a clash between his tribe and a rival candidate’s tribe in Gamas on Friday morning. Several homes, property worth thousands of kina and food gardens were destroyed in the fight between the Temun Kup and Goli Kup tribes. Chief Superintendent Mapi urged the people of Chimbu not to turn to violence because of the election. Meanwhile, counting in the province continued smoothly, other than for the removal and assault of several rowdy scrutineers, allegedly by the police.

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SUPPLIERS of dangerous weapons to criminals are far more dangerous than the criminals themselves, a National Court judge has said. Lae National Court judge Justice Nicholas Kirriwom said this was because if it weren’t for the supplier, these incidents — most of them with very drastic consequences — would not have occurred. He said the nation is struggling today to survive the onslaught of lawlessness and violence brought upon it by law breakers throughout the country and it did not help much when those lawbreakers were officers who were supposed to uphold the law. “Crimes of violence against persons and properties using high-powered military issue weapons and home-made guns are endemic throughout the country. In the Highlands, the use of high-powered firearms in tribal fights is quite common. It is common knowledge that the losses of high-powered weapons from the army, police and prisons through criminal acts committed from within end up in the wrong hands outside and therefore those who supply these deadly weapons that bring about much damage, loss and grief must be held accountable for their part in bringing about such disastrous consequences,” he said. Justice Kirriwom made these comments yesterday when sentencing three officers attached with the Engineer Battalion at Igam Barracks in Lae to 12 months in prison with hard labour for stealing from the military armoury an M16 machine gun and selling it to buyers in Kainantu who paid more than K4500 for the gun. Jailed were Lance Corporal Kalula Eremas, Lance Corporal Aisora Toraka and Private John Mark Danny, all from the Engineer Battalion. The weapon, if it had not been recovered, would have cost the State of more than K10,000. Area Commander of Igam Barracks Lieutenant-Colonel Verave Mae said after the sentences were handed down for the three men that such officers compromised national security. He said once men were given uniforms and placed in positions of power, ordinary citizen looked up to them and believed in them and it did not do any good when they betrayed that trust that the common people had in them. “In fact, such people contribute to the increasing lawlessness in the country,” he said. But he expressed gratitude and relief that they were being penalised and he said with this being the first sentencing of its kind for the barracks, it should serve as a deterent for any other officer who tried to do the same.

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A SENIOR policeman says there needs to be proper accountability of high-powered weapons in security forces armouries. Director serious crimes Thomas Eluh said it was not disputed that weapons were being transported into the country from overseas. But he said tighter accountability had to be made on high-powered weapons in the three security forces’ armouries around the country. Mr Eluh said despite receiving reports and catching people in the act of smuggling weapons into the country, police were yet to verify where the weapons were coming from. He said although there had been speculation that the weapons were coming from Australia it had not been proven. Mr Eluh said there was a general lack of accountability in police and defence force armouries. He said although weapons were being smuggled into Papua New Guinea there were strong possibilities they were also coming from defence force and police members. Mr Eluh said the security forces had to tighten up loose ends to ensure armouries nationwide were accountable for the weapons used during operations. He said these days high powered weapons were used in almost every armed robbery and hold up. Although he was unable to put a figure as to how much the smuggling of high-powered weapons was worth, Mr Eluh believes it is a lucrative trade. He said it must be expensive because weapons smugglers regarded the movement of these items as valuable. Mr Eluh said not only Western and Gulf provinces were entry points for the smuggling of such illegal weapons. He said all ports of entry into Papua New Guinea were vulnerable to the smuggling of weapons.

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POLICE SEIZE WEAPONS (Post-Courier 5/2/02)

An automatic rifle and ammunition were seized during a search of passengers on a coastal ship travelling from Bougainville and Rabaul into West New Britain on Saturday. The M16 rifle and ammunition were found by police in the drug interdiction team at Kimbe. They were making a routine search of the MV Solomon Queen. Two men from Kieta and one from Buin in Bougainville, aged between 20 and 25, were arrested after allegedly attempting to break away from police on the wharf. Police fired warning shots and after a brief scuffle, the three men were subdued. A search of their bags revealed a full clip of 30 5.56mm live rounds in a magazine plus 46 belt linked rounds of 7.62mm ammunition used in a M60 machine gun. Another bag contained 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibre ammunition used in high powered military-type weapons. The rifle seized is believed to be PNG Defence Force issue and is capable of fully automatic fire like a machine gun. The suspects have been charged with several serious offences and will appear in the Kimbe District Court this week. Sergeant P Mami of the drug and NCIU office said this seizure was a result of the ongoing anti-drugs and firearms campaign in Kimbe. Investigations are continuing into the origin of the weapon and further arrests are likely. Provincial police commander Tom Uapipi congratulated Sgt Mami and his team for their efforts and said that this seizure along with others made in recent weeks sent a clear warning to the public that nothing would find its way past the team at the Kimbe wharf. He called for stiff penalties on offenders.

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HIGHLANDS ARMS RACE (Post-Courier 16/1/02)

HIGH-POWERED weapons being used with increasing frequency and with deadly consequences in Highlands provinces are getting there under the sponsorship of rich and politically powerful people. These sponsors of illegal gun trade compete among themselves for the status of “biggest weapons owner”, a senior police officer has said. Departing Highlands police commander Tony Wagambie spoke of the dangerous arms movement, possession and use when spoken to by the Post-Courier in Mount Hagen yesterday. Without naming people and sources, Assistant Commissioner Wagambie said people using the sophisticated weapons to commit crime and for tribal fights in the Highlands would not normally afford them. People in high places or well-to-do Papua New Guineans with ambitious personal agenda were buying and supplying the arms, Mr Wagambie said. He said another source of dangerous weapons acquisition was through a “barter trade” involving illicit drugs. “The gun trade is being funded by people in high places and by well-to-do people. For such weapons to be used in the Highlands there needs to be financial capacity from somewhere,” he said. “The mentality (among arms sponsors) is that if you have one M16, I want to make sure I have two M16s and the race goes on. “The young boys and men from the villages are only users and even become victims of the dangerous weapons.” He confirmed that sophisticated arms are being used in the current Southern Highlands tribal fight between warring Wogia and Unjamap tribesmen in Mendi. Weapons being used in the conflict include M60 light machine guns, M16, SLR and AR15 (modified) assault rifles, grenade launcher, L40 and Mark 47 World War Two rifles, pump action and single shot shotguns, pistols and an assortment of home-made guns, bush knives and axes, he said. Mr Wagambie said the days of using bows and arrows in Highlands tribal fights have long gone. He said the illicit gun trade had also become a profit-driven business venture for sponsors who hire the arms for huge payments to tribes involved in tribal fights. He urged light-aircraft operators and trucking firms to be vigilant and inquisitive about cargo they are asked to drop off in remote locations.

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DEADLY GUNS RIFE IN SHP, WARNS AGIRU by Colin Taimbari (The National 15/1/02)

... Mr Agiru said the Government had failed to maintain law and order in the country, especially the gun trade. He claimed further that some serving politicians and intending candidates for the June elections were involved in the trade. High-powered guns are being sold and bought at K7,000 each, even though the National Intelligence Organisation is aware of this, Mr Agiru said. Marijuana, he said, was being traded for guns in the Torres Strait, guns were also brought across the PNG/Indonesia border and finding their way into the Highlands and to places like Mendi, Nipa, Tari and Koroba/Kopiago in Southern Highlands. Mr Agiru said it was up to people like Mr Embel and the Government to come up with proper long-term solutions because it could cause problems of catastrophic proportions in the province during the national elections ...

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GUNS HAVE TO GO: BISHOPS (Post-Courier 2/1/02)

THE President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands, Stephen Reichert, has warned leaders at all levels to answer to the problem of a dangerous “gun society” emerging in the Highlands region. Bishop Reichert said there was talk on the streets of how guns enter PNG and are distributed. “And there is another frightening emergence of a growing gang of “guns-for-hire”, armed mercenaries who sell their services in local battles to the highest bidder,” Bishop Reichert said. He said news reports from Mendi, tell a story of a tribal fight using sophisticated military weapons like M16s, SLRs, AR 15s and even M60 machine guns. “Many have been killed and others seriously injured during violence that erupted a few days before Christmas and continues even today,” he said. He said police units sent to Mendi had taken up protective positions and patrols to secure the town area, however, police admit they are “out-gunned”. He said the Government’s primary role was to provide justice and laws to protect citizens and provide a safe environment where they can do carry out business in peace. “The Southern Highlands Province, with its longstanding political turmoil, is an obvious example of what happens when authority breaks down and confusion sets in. Education and health services collapse, corruption flourishes, social order breaks down, lawlessness increases and the guns come out,” he said. He said there should be alarm at where weapons and ammunition were coming from. He said PNG was heading down a dangerous road as more and more people are arming themselves and turn away from the legal system and civil authority and resort to violence and intimidation to solve problems. “Today a tribal war is fought with guns. What will it be tomorrow?” he asked. He called on the Government to explain the audit of publicly funded police and army armouries. He said the community had a right to know what weapon are “missing” and what actions the Government was taking to recover them. He said fights where guns are used and armed hold-ups show that a dangerous gun-culture has developed and was rapidly spreading. He further called on every citizen of goodwill to pray and work for peace in PNG. “The grace and blessing of God is desperately needed at this time. We must replace hatred and revenge with love and forgiveness,” he said.

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REMOVAL CALL MADE (Post-Courier 2/1/02)

THE people of Southern Highlands Province have petitioned the Government to immediately remove Provincial Police Commander Jeffery Kera. Leaders representing the community, youths, women, business houses, public servants and the districts cited Mr Kera’s (who is also from the province) political and tribal affiliations in the province and as well as an alleged professional weakness in maintaining law and order. The leaders claimed that he had a tribal relationship with the warring Tugusup (Wogia) tribe and as a result was in a conflict of interest situation in dealing with a solution to the fight. “The Unjamap people are already accusing him of supplying weapons to his clansmen (Wogia). Any peace monitoring committee that involves Mr Kera will not solve this problem,” the petition said. They said in his time as PPC in 10 years, he had ordered a raid of the Unjamap village. The Unjamap villagers took the matter to court and the state ordered to pay damages. The petition said the people had lost confidence in Mr Kera as the police chief in their province. and that he could not be the defender of life and property any more.

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