PNG media: 'Crisis on multiple fronts'
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Coronavirus: We must all play our part

Assistant Commissioner Anthony Wagambie
Assistant Commissioner Anthony Wagambie

ANTHONY WAGAMBIE
| Assistant Commissioner, Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary

PORT MORESBY - We, as part of the global community are going through some of the most challenging times we have ever experienced with the Covid-19 Pandemic spreading across the world.

Our PNG government has imposed a state of emergency to stop the virus spreading.

From media reports we hear that our health system has been stretched to the limit due to the scarcity of manpower, equipment and facilities to cater for a large scale outbreak.

We must individually and collectively play our part in preventing the spread of the virus.

I am not a health specialist or doctor to make assumptions on the virus, however, based on information from the World Health Organisation and relevant health authorities, I know that it is a new virus that so far has no cure.

Under the state of emergency, our controller, who is also the commissioner of police, has issued certain orders in consultation with health and other relevant authorities.

As a country, we must collectively abide by these orders for our own good. We should all comply with them not only for ourselves but for our families and for everyone around us.

Police with the assistance of the PNG Defence Force have a duty to enforce the orders with regards to public order.

This is not easy task and I ask for your cooperation in this difficult time.

We Papua New Guineans are a family oriented and outgoing people and we love to gather in big groups for occasions like weddings, parties, church and funerals, and in everyday settings.

Many of our rights have been infringed during this time but these sacrifices and deprivation are for the greater good.

Our prime minister James Marape has said that, as we move through the state of emergency, we will have to make sacrifices. This is what we are experiencing now.

I have travelled to Bereina and Kupiano to see for myself how the rural people of Central Province are coping and I am aware of the hardships they are facing.

I also understand that people who live in Port Moresby are generally well connected to the village. They take every opportunity to go home when they can. The state of emergency had affected them also.

Our people in the National Capital District, especially those in the settlements and indigenous Motuan villages whose hunting and fishing areas have been taken up by the city and who depend highly on the informal sector, have been also been hit hard.

Businesses have had to scale down, in the process laying off non-essential staff, some terminated as companies were no longer able to operate.

None of this is easy.

But state of emergency orders must be followed. We have to follow the orders and not take risks that we will regret later. We only have one life to live.

Recently there has been a barrage of complaints of police brutality, extortion and other allegations.

In some instances, something happened first to cause a specific end result.

But, unfortunately, we have received complaints of unethical behaviour from officers whose actions went overboard.

These are subject to independent investigation by the internal affairs directorate which operates independently of the central command of which I am divisional commander.

The incidents that happened are very unfortunate and most could have been avoided if people cooperated and complied with the state of emergency orders.

Since I took command of NCD and Central we have gradually seen some improvement in policing. However the state of emergency has brought to light unethical behaviour by some of my personnel.

This will not be brushed aside as I have tasked the metropolitan superintendent and other officers to look into these complaints and to deal with them appropriately.

I also want to state that the majority of rank and file police are focused on getting the job done.

There is a manpower shortage and they have had to work long hours with hardly any days off since the commencement of the state of emergency.

The personal sacrifices many of them have been given with few complaints. I have so much praise for them. They know they are doing this for everyone.

I appeal to members of the public not to generalise about all police personnel being rogue and corrupt. That is not the case.

We have very dedicated hard working women and men in uniform who go out of their way to protect lives and property, and some get hurt and killed in the process.

All of our police have a long and hard road ahead to win back public confidence.

I appeal to all police personnel to take it upon yourselves to bring back respect and trust.

Don’t be downhearted by negative publicity, but take it as a challenge. We can do better. Many good deeds go unnoticed. People will only talk about the bad and easily forget the positive.

Make sure we exercise commonsense, restraint and respect. I have been telling you this every time.

To avoid more confrontation, I have changed a couple of strategies in implementing state of emergency orders.

We will step back a little and allow the community to take more ownership. We have done what we can. It’s up to the community to be responsible.

On the streets we will take control. I have a duty to protect my rank and file as well as the integrity of my command and the Constabulary.

We will police where we are accepted.

Criticism will not stop me and my personnel from performing our duties; we will strive to perform better to serve our country.

My officers and I are focused in leading our men and women in blue to serve.

God bless all of us and keep our country safe.

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