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Transparency says shooting of students ‘despicable’

Alphonse JohnRadio New Zealand International

THE chair of Transparency International in Papua New Guinea, Lawrence Stephens, says the lack of accountability for police opening fire on protesting students last week is disgraceful.

Prime minister Peter O'Neill, police commissioner Gary Baki, and the university's vice chancellor have sought to deflect the blame to the students, but Mr Stephens told Jamie Tahana that there is no excuse for the police behaviour.

STEPHENS: We find it totally despicably and unacceptable that police would be armed, confronting students at the university. It almost seemed to be a deliberate provocation of the students and there seemed to have been no excuse for them opening fire and mistreating a number of people, including in one case, a journalist covering the event.

Our position remains the same - the police have no right to behave in that manner and people really should be controlling the use of weapons by the disciplined forces. They continue to cause us great shame and great destruction of life and damage to individuals  

TAHANA: We have seen Commissioner Gary Baki, who at some point, promised to crack down on control and command in the force. The prime minister, the university chancellor, all in a sense put the blame on the students. Enquiries have been announced into how this violence happened but yet there seems to have been no actual condemnation of the police from authorities.

STEPHENS: That appears to be the case. It seems to be much easier for example to blame foreign media for reporting rumours of deaths having been an issue, when the issue is not the rumours of deaths but the fact that police opened fire, and no that is not being focused on as it should be focused on.

And it is pretty awful when people suggest that students exercising their constitutional rights to stage a protest, to make public their concerns, are confronted with murderous weapons and attacked.

TAHANA: There are countless examples of such brutality. We had Hanuabada last year, we have had the clashes with the army and such - are they acting with a sense of impunity.

STEPHENS: I would say that is very, very true. The problem is, people do act as if they have impunity and they do so justifiably because you very rarely find that anybody is seriously held accountable.

You don't for example see police commissioners resigning having failed to control their police officers, and being ultimately responsible for the loss of lives. You don't find them taking that responsibility and stepping aside on the basis that they failed. You don't find any of our political office holders prepared to take responsibilities for the decisions that they are ultimately for, but looking for other people to blame.


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