PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea’s police force is the most corrupt public agency in the country, engaged in drug-smuggling, gun-running, and land theft, and beset by “a rampant culture of police ill-discipline and brutality”, its own police minister has said, in an extraordinary condemnation of his own force.
Police minister Bryan Kramer launched an attack on the police force, saying its endemic corruption would take years, even a generation, to eradicate. His statement follows a concession from the police commissioner, David Manning, that his force includes “criminals in uniform”.
“I found our police force in complete disarray and riddled with corruption,” Kramer wrote online about his first 15 months as police minister.
“The very organisation that was tasked with fighting corruption had become the leading agency in acts of corruption. Add to that a rampant culture of police ill-discipline and brutality.
“Senior officers based in police headquarters in Port Moresby were stealing from their own retired officers’ pension funds.
“They were implicated in organised crime, drug syndicates, smuggling firearms, stealing fuel, insurance scams, and even misusing police allowances.
“They misused tens of millions of kina allocated for police housing, resources and welfare. We also uncovered many cases of senior officers facilitating the theft of police land.”
Kramer said many of the country’s best police officers had retired or were dismissed “for trying to do the right thing”.
Kramer, the MP for Madang Open and sole member of the Allegiance party he founded, came to parliament in 2017 on a declared platform of transparency and good governance.
He was instrumental in exposing a loans scandal involving Swiss bank UBS that ultimately ended the government of former prime minister Peter O’Neill. O’Neill’s successor James Marape elevated Kramer to the police ministry in June last year.
Kramer said a little over a year in government had revealed the extent of PNG’s systemic corruption.
“Having spent time on the inside, I can see the extent of corruption in PNG. It is so deep-rooted and so entrenched in every aspect of politics and business that it is almost beyond comprehension, and appears never-ending.
“The country was, and is, on the verge of collapse. Given the extent of the damage, it will take five years just to stop it from sinking further. It will take a generation to turn it around.”
Kramer said the current government was working on sweeping reforms to the police force, “from the top down”.
He told the Guardian last year he expected to be killed for his efforts to reform corrupt institutions of state.
“I have no question of doubt I will eventually get killed for what I do,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “It goes without saying when you get in the way of those stealing billions in public funds, they will do whatever it takes to get rid of you.”
A recent report funded by the Australian government through its PNG-Australia policing partnership argued the PNG police force was chronically underfunded.
It suggested that a one-off injection of K3.9bn would address a lack of resources, training, and infrastructure.
The report also found PNG faces a severe shortage of police: a ratio of one officer to every 1,145 people, far from the UN’s recommended ratio of one officer for every 450 people.