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Frustration directed at the wrong target


THE UNITED NATIONS has reported that PNG police systematically beat detainees, have crippled people suspected of serious crimes and sexually assault female prisoners.

These were the conclusions from a two-week tour of the country by the UN's special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, who said police often brutally beat detainees with car fan belts, gun butts, iron rods and stones.

While nobody should try and condone the police actions - which are a gross abuse of suspects’ human rights and freedoms and must be condemned - at one level the police's frustrations are understandable.

All too often the criminals they capture are released by the courts because of lack of resources, inefficiency or a failure to follow proper procedures. Even if convicted, many violent criminals simply walk out of jail and re-offend.

In addition, police are forced to work in terrible conditions. Our police stations are usually a disgrace: run down, dirt,y unhygienic, and lacking the most basic equipment.

Worse, many police families are forced to live in squalor without water or electricity in barracks unfit for human habitation.

If I were a policeman or policewoman I would be frustrated.

But by beating, raping and crippling people they arrest, the police are taking out their frustrations on the wrong people.

As Mr Nowak pointed out, officers of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary are often unable to enforce the law due to insufficient human and financial resources, serious corruption and a lack of political will.

It is business people and senior bureaucrats who are stealing millions of dollars from thepublic, and the politicians who are failing to stem the flow and who should be the target of the police's frustrations.

It is not the police who are responsible for the "overcrowded, filthy cells, without proper ventilation, natural light or access to food and water for washing, drinking and for using the toilets" described by Mr Novak.

These things are the fault of our politicians and corrupt senior bureaucrats.

If the police want to vent their frustrations then they should read the reports of the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry and take up their issues with the people implicated there.

It is these people who are responsible for the medical care that is lacking for inmates which leads "to avoidable amputations and the spread of disease among detainees".

Mr Nowak said he had met with high-ranking PNG government officials and had been assured they took the issue seriously.

"They haven't denied what I said," he said. But they have also not provided any solutions.

Until they do the right thing and stop white collar crime, it is the high-ranking officials who should feel the heat of police frustrations.



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