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‘Criminals in uniform’: Jiwaka police terror as Simbu villages raided

Simbu women after the police attackFR CHRISTIAN SIELAND

ON Saturday 8 March, we picked up eight women from the shabby cells of Minj police station in the central highlands province of Jiwaka. It was another case of police brutality.

The women had been detained three days earlier together with 21 men during a raid conducted between Koronigle and Waingar in Simbu, along the Highlands Highway. They were randomly picked up and detained by Jiwaka police in Minj.

Most of those arrested were mourning the death of one of their local leaders who was assaulted at Molka Lodge in Minj and died some weeks later due to the injuries he had sustained.

The slow response of the police in relation to the attack and death of that man and the escape of the main culprit led some of the frustrated relatives and mourners to attack some police vehicles and officers who were on the way back to Minj after a post mortem conducted on the victim in Goroka.

It was a stupid act by some stupid men with terrible consequences for the whole village.

The next day police from Jiwaka drove in a long convoy of police vehicles towards Koronigle and Waingar and jumped out of their vehicles fully armed with guns, machetes and sticks.

In their rage, they ran amok, shooting teargas, threatening people at gunpoint, stopping travelling cars at gunpoint, pointing guns at women and old people, beating up people at random, destroying food gardens, burning houses, killing pigs, looting stores, confiscating alcohol and arresting people at will.

During this operation they might have arrested some of those responsible for the attack on the police vehicles but most of the people arrested were mourners. Some of them were from other parts of Simbu who happened to be at the hauskrai on that fateful day.

Some people were not even at the hauskrai when arrested. They were at home, in their gardens or at the market.  

One of the women arrested, who I know very well, was walking with her bilum from her garden when she was stopped, pushed to the ground, kicked all over her body and thrown into the police vehicle. Her garden was several hundred metrers away from the hauskrai.

These people were innocent and had nothing to do with the attack on the police; they were just at that place at the wrong time. They received unimaginable treatment at the hands of the Jiwaka police.

From a so-called disciplined force one would expect a more diplomatic, intelligent and peaceful way of confronting such an issue. But instead their rampage and destruction did not reflect any sign of discipline. They behaved more like chaotic hooligans and criminals in uniform.

There was not even a single sign of ethical, humane conduct in the operation, and no respect for the human rights of their fellow citizens, especially mothers and the elderly.

I was shocked to tears when I heard the story of the women and saw the evidence of the treatment they received at the hands of the male and female officers in the Minj cells.

They received Guantanamo-like treatment. The physical injuries were shocking, but these women also have to deal with the psychological injuries and trauma. Some of them told me that even looking at an officer in blue causes them to tremble.

Two of the women arrested were still breast feeding. They had to fill up bottles with their milk to be taken to their babies back home. Another woman was three months pregnant. She showed me a black spot from a police boot at her back.

All the women had cuts and bruises all over their faces and bodies. What really shocked me was to see cigarette burns on the arms and faces of the women. They were beaten up several times inside the prison and even outside in front of crowds, sprayed with cold water and told to sing ‘This is the day’ or the National Anthem. Doctors and medical treatment to treat the wounds were not allowed by the police.  

Our police force does not have the best reputation because of such undisciplined displays all over the country. They should be trusted by the people but instead people are afraid of the police. They have treated women and mothers and men like hardcore criminals without any previous trial or evidence of involvement.

I really hope that those responsible for the attack will be brought to justice to “face the full force of the law” (as the police likes to say).

Enough is enough! If they continue to treat their fellow country men and women in such a way, the police force should not be surprised to see in the near future an equal ‘eye for an eye’ reaction from the hands of those whom they have actually pledged to protect.


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Kai Boma

I live in Melbourne and I am a PNGian. Watching the said video on ABC news this afternoon, I felt terribly ashamed of our police force.

I am also from Minj and after reading about police brutality in the Kor Nigle area of neighbouring Kerowagi, I am also feeling ashamed.

My friends here in Melbourne are asking me about the police and their power in PNG. What do you want me to tell them? Please, enough is enough.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Thanks Robin

Tina Jona

Very pathetic these policemen. They break all the rules in the book of law. They are criminals of the worst kind, and that's what a lot of them are good at, because when they are kicked out of the police force, they are good for nothing and worthless in the community.

There are too many problems in the police force, policemen and women, families etc. These criminals turn their frustrations on to the public. It's very much like a domino effect.

Where do we go from here! This is a reflection of the country. I am ashamed as a PNG citizen.

Robin Lillicrapp

John, you are to be commended for your courage in writing about your traumatic experience.

And even more so for raising the issue of ethics as you have in another article.
I trust your proactive approach is seen by others as an example of how best solutions to the corrupting influences of social evils may best be addressed.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Just try if you can to be at the end of a police beating, and you will simply want to write them off. I am also a victim.

Me and a cousin were beaten to almost pulp by eight polcieman in my own house, and in front of my children.

We followed the lawful procedures of writing to their complaint unit and their station commander.

Once these police became aware of the complaint, they mobilised their police friends and came to my house again in two truckloads, this time - as they revealed later - to kill me for causing them anxiety.

They came in the night, under the cover of darkness.

I have lived in fear of the police, any police since!

But as a country we have not first of all addressed serious issues facing the police force.

From their welfare like housing and training, to providing career pathways to, making errant officers face the very law they are supposed to do.

Harry W Poka

The Jiwaka Police have done this horrible inhuman crime and now we have the Jiwaka Provincial Police Commander, Mr Tondop, demanding that the Simbu Provincial Government to meet the full body works of the police vehicles damaged!

Tondop, grow up na skulim ol polisman bilong yu tu.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I watched "Mr Pip" last night too Robin. Snap! A confused and patchy film but fine performances by the girl playing Matilda.

The actor who played the PNGDF officer was also extremely good. He and his men were committing atrocities but you could see in his face the frustration that had brought him to that point. Leonard Fong Roka displays this well in his new book 'Brokenville'.

That sort of frustration must be rife in the RPNGPC and the idea of just writing them off as thugs is a bit disingenuous. I would sheet the blame for the incident in Jiwaka firmly with the government.

If they took time to resource and adequately train the police these sorts of incidents would not occur so often.

The police that we worked with as kiaps were not saints either and managed to commit crimes behind our backs but when they were caught they were dealt with severely.

It's interesting to contrast the story that follows on today's blog about Opisa Pokep. He and Inspector Metau would be appalled by what it has all come to.

Giorgio Licini

Coincidentally 8 March was International Women Day. Correct?

Robin Lillicrapp

Viewing "Mr Pip" last night reinforced the stereotype described in this article.

Tribalistic bully boys acting with impunity, uniformed and empowered to wreak the will of the state.

Of course, prior to the violence, per se, are unseen episodes of provocation without which the casual observer is unable to form rationed conclusions.

The police are obviously not well led or disciplined to be able to cope with random outbursts of irrational violence by aggrieved citizens.

Perhaps, though, these events are but symptoms of a much deeper malaise often lamented on the pages of this blog.

Mrs Barbara Short

Terrible! The PNG Police Force is evidently in need of reform. Maybe they feel overwhelmed and have to resort to these scare tactics. They certainly have forgotten that they are not the ones to hand out the punishment and that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

I hope the Prime Minister will take action to stop police brutality. In the Sepik leading police officers were recently accused of rape and put in prison. Hopefully they will be given a fair trial.

Leonard Roka

There is a video circulating on email entitled 'Buai Ban' which shows a PNG police patrol letting their dogs on a wailing man sitting on the ground.

The subject is no threat and under their power, but these PNG police just live their dogs bite him up. Very bad.

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