BRYAN KRAMER MP | Minister for Police | Edited extracts
PORT MORESBY – This week the National Executive Council (NEC) revoked the appointment of Acting Police Commissioner Francis Tokura and appointed Acting Deputy Commissioner (Operations) David Manning in his place.
The reason behind this decision was twofold.
Firstly, to reinstate Mr Tokura to his substantive position as Deputy Police Commissioner for Bougainville to oversee the preparation and conduct of the Bougainville referendum in November.
Last week, member for South Bougainville Timothy Masiu raised an issue on the floor of Parliament over the decision to remove Mr Tokura as the head of Police on Bougainville, placing him as the Acting Commissioner for Police.
"Minister, Bougainville is in a very intense referendum mode right now,” Masiu said. “When you removed the man in charge of law and order in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the decision has created a big vacuum in the law and justice sector on the island and we don't have a head of police."
He also directed the following questions to me in my capacity as Police Minister: What arrangements do I have to fill the important vacancy I created? How soon will I fill the vacancy? Do I have an overall policing plan to assist police on Bougainville as countdown nears the referendum day?
While I provided a somewhat lengthy response to the questions, I did make it clear that Bougainville would get the attention it deserves and, if it meant returning Mr Tokura as chief of police, then it would be considered.
I also noted the significant responsibility Mr Tokura had inherited, a police force that was essentially broken.
On Tuesday morning I messaged Mr Masiu to advise him of the NEC's decision to reinstate Mr Tokura to his substantive position on Bougainville.
Masiu's response was, "Thank you my minister. An important decision."
The second reason behind the decision to reinstate Mr Tokura was that the police force is facing serious administrative, operational, command and discipline issues.
These issues span the country and while Mr Tokura was head of Bougainville police, it would be unfair to assume he would be best placed to address both issues.
Why appoint David Manning?
Mr Manning was the second most senior officer of the Force, as Acting Deputy Commissioner for Police (Operations).
He is a long serving member of the Force, with 22 years of experience, having joined the Constabulary in 1997 as a cadet officer. He has risen through the ranks with extensive experience in the field including major deployment and operational tasks.
I understand the Mr Tokura has taken issue with his reinstatement to Bougainville, staging a press conference and suggesting the NEC decision was highly questionable, suspicious and without merit. He also raised issue over being notified of his sacking via a WhatsApp message.
Firstly, it's important to note, the NEC made the decision after open and meaningful consultation and consideration following the same process that gave effect to Mr Tokura's original appointment.
It is regrettable to learn that Mr Tokura has implied the NEC decision is questionable, suspicious and without merit, when it was in the interests of ensuring Bougainville’s referendum and the Bougainville people are given the priority they deserve.
Why was Tokura informed of the decision by WhatsApp? Unlike in the past when police commissioners would hear of their removal from office in the press or rumours, I contacted Mr Tokura last Friday hoping to meet with him to discuss this issue.
Unfortunately, he was on his way to Bougainville, explaining he would be back on Monday, the very day NEC was to meet. I called Mr Tokura explaining I needed to speak to him about discussions to have him reinstated back on Bougainville as chief of police.
The NEC meeting went on for eight hours finishing at 9 at night. I contacted Mr Tokura to notify him of the decision, rather than him hear it through someone else.
While I understand there are some who are of the view I should have informed Mr Tokura in writing, it would not have been practical to be writing a letter minutes after a meeting and have it delivered to him late at night.
It was always the plan to provide a formal letter of explanation to re-affirm what was explained via text messages. Personally, I would rather be informed of a decision seconds after it is made than wait two days to receive it in writing.
In this case Mr Tokura was afforded what no acting commissioner in the history of the constabulary has had - the right to be informed ahead of time and seconds after a decision was made concerning appointment.
However, the effect was only to have Mr Tokura go to the press in the morning claiming the NEC decision was suspicious and without merit.
All the above issues aside, I hope Mr Tokura will respect the NEC decision and return to his substantive position as chief of police on Bougainville to deliver a successful referendum.
In conclusion, I would like to put on notice certain actors in the background who are considering using this issue to cause disaffection within the force.
Such conduct is a criminal offence under Section 136 of Police Act and they can expect to be dealt with very soon.