PRIME MINISTER PETER O’NEILL this week declared war on crime in Papua New Guinea amidst the escalating law and order situation, including the recent murder of an Australian businessman in Mt Hagen.
Crimes of all sorts - including rape, murder, police brutality and white collar fraud - are burgeoning in every institution and community and have become deterrents to development and threats to life in PNG.
The issue of crime has been raised by investors, civil society organisations and business houses many times. But there nothing concrete has been done about it apart from the establishment of Task Force Sweep which has made inroads into corruption and the systematic thievery of state finances.
The declaration of war on crime by Peter O’Neill this week was long overdue and is welcome news.
On Wednesday, the prime minister declared he will in the next few days table in cabinet harsher measures to curtail crime in PNG.
On the prime minister’s agenda are “the immediate implementation of the death penalty; life sentence without parole for rape; strengthening of the sorcery law; twenty-year jail term for breach of liquor laws including the making of home brews; fifty-year jail term for drug-related offences including growing and selling of marijuana and a high risk prison camp on an isolated island”.
While the proposed measures are welcome, the prime minister should also include on his agenda amendments to the leadership code. Instead of the lengthy and cumbersome process of investigations, referrals and tribunals against MPs and public servants who are alleged to have misappropriated or stolen state money(only to find that they resign at the eleventh hour to evade justice), the criminal law should proceed at the first instant.
If they are found guilty, they should be imprisoned for 50 years regardless of the amount of money involved. And they should be banned from holding public office for life.
PNG is known as one of the most corrupt countries on Planet Earth. This is true. Corruption has been the biggest problem trammeling development and progress on many fronts for decades. It’s about time something was done about it and this is the right time.
One of the pillars of Singapore’s success is its zero crime tolerance legal system. Let us learn, embrace and blend Singapore’s legal system with ours in the war against crime.