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PNG police say ‘athletes will be safe at Games’

Friday 19 June 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT MORESBY – The police commissioner of Papua New Guinea has assured athletes and visitors coming for next month’s Pacific Games they will be safe in Port Moresby.

Port Moresby has a reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world but the games organisers say it is time that image is shed.

“We want our people to feel that they own the games and that they will be particularly welcoming of our visitors from other countries so that we can make them feel at home,” John Kali, acting chair of the National Security Advisory Council, said.

Australian and New Zealand athletes will compete for the first time in certain events, joining about 4000 sportsmen and women expected from across the Pacific region.

Some 2000 police, 300 soldiers and 250 prison guards will be deployed to secure venues, accommodation and transport routes across Port Moresby.

The PNG police commissioner acknowledged there were two serious crimes committed against expatriates last month but urged the international community not to judge the city by its past.

“We, the constabulary, stand ready to give that assurance for the people of Papua New Guinea and our visitors that the games will be safe,” PNG police commissioner Gari Baki said.

For the first time, police will use two Israeli-supplied surveillance balloons to monitor the various games venues and coordinate responses.

“They are like the eyes in the air and it gives us real time surveillance on every incident that happens within the games venues,” Baki said.

Two officers from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were embedded in the Major Events, Planning and Security Unit for the last six months and have helped set up a police station at the international airport.

The AFP will be conducting high-visibility policing at games venues, alongside their PNG colleagues, mission commander Alan Scott said.

The head of PNG’s prisons said his staff was on high alert for anyone wanting to take advantage of security resources being pulled from the provinces to the capital.

“I assure the public that we are ready for potential break-ins and break-outs of prisons,” Correctional Services commissioner Michael Waipo said.

Mass prison breaks are common in Papua New Guinea. Sixty-eight inmates escaped from a Lae prison earlier this month.

In the lead up to the games, contractors working on behalf of the National Capital District removed razor wire from fences on private properties and businesses, in an effort to shed the “gulag” image of Port Moresby.

“We are removing the razor wires because we want change and confidence in our city,” governor Powes Parkop told the Post Courier this week.

However, many in the business community are upset with the razor wire ban. They say the security wire removal operation is just “cosmetics” and they fear an increase in burglaries.

“We are starting to get reports of incidents happening around the city,” David Conn, chief executive of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

“I think you’d have to say that businesses are grossly unhappy with what’s happened in the last couple of weeks.

“As the business community we want to present the best face we can to our Pacific neighbours, but quite frankly a lot of it is cosmetics – we’re not fooling anyone here,” Conn told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme.

The Pacific Games will run from July 4-16.

Police Commissioner Baki, Defence Force Commander Gilbert Toropo, and Correctional Services Commissioner Michael Waipo said they are ready to deliver safe games.

Acting Chief Secretary John Kali said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had expressed satisfaction on the level of cooperation between the three disciplinary forces.

Baki will call out the PNGDF and Correctional Services (CS) for deployment during the games.

Both CS and PNGDF will deploy about 300 personnel each, who will be positioned to both venues and strategically located stations within the city to ensure a high level of public safety and security within the city.

Baki has also appealed to parents in the National Capital District to control the movement of their children, specifically street vendors, in the city.

Baki warned that his policemen would not hesitate to deal with children and youths who misbehave on the streets and who are found to hang around on the streets.

He urged parental responsibility during the Pacific Games next month, referring to the many children and youths on the streets of Port Moresby who usually carry around sharp objects, causing unnecessary fear.

“We will not hesitate to deal with these youths if they cause anything on the streets and in the Games area.”

As the Games draw nearer, focus is on reducing the crime rate in Port Moresby to a “manageable level”, the Post-Courier reported.

That involved security operations targeting known criminal hotspots, illegal liquor outlets, traffic enforcement, illegal street vendors, as well as information and awareness programmes to the general public.