BY MALUM NALU
POLICE in the nation’s capital were on full alert today after the PNG Cabinet suspended Police Commissioner Gari Baki, The National reports.
The government moved quickly to replace him, naming veteran cop Tony Wagambie acting police commissioner and Fred Yakasa as deputy.
The Cabinet, in making the move, ordered investigations into Mr Baki’s conduct as police chief in the past four years. He is under suspension with full pay until the investigations are completed.
Mr Baki’s job was on the line after Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare removed Police Minister Sani Rambi recently and replaced him with Mark Maipakai.
In documents leaked to the media, the prime minister accused Baki and Rambi of misleading senior members of Cabinet into getting K10 million approved for LNG operations.
After transferring Mr Rambi from the Police to the Labour portfolio, the prime minister wrote to Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill to prepare papers to replace Mr Baki.
The letter to Mr O’Neill stated reasons that the commissioner had allowed the police force to run down and there was a general breakdown in law and order.
Mr Baki responded last Friday, categorically denying the allegations that he had misled the prime minister and senior Cabinet ministers.
He said in his briefing to Cabinet that the withdrawal of police personnel did not affect the whole of the LNG project areas but only Kopi, Kikori and Gobe.
The main reason was logistics difficulties that police were experiencing for the whole LNG project and it was necessary to secure additional funding from the government in addition to what Esso Highlands was providing for operational work, which was outside the agreed arrangements covered in a memorandum of understanding.
Mr Baki’s brief also explained that by solely relying on the funding provided by the LNG developer would create a notion, or allow people to form opinions, that the deployment of the police mobile squads to the LNG project sites was merely a private security arrangement for the project.
He stated it also questioned the constitutional independence of the police force.
Factions within the police force received news of the suspension of Mr Baki with mixed reactions.
One group mobilised last night on Burns Peak, ready to move into a deserted police headquarters at Konedobu.
Security was also stepped up for senior cabinet ministers and the prime minister amid the reported build-up of tension last night.
Spotter: Paul Oates