ABC Radio | 2 March 2017
The premier of Papua New Guinea’s Hela province is calling for an Australian Federal Police intervention to quell an outbreak of lawlessness he says has reached crisis point.
- Premier says province is awash with arms, including high-powered weapons
- Describes situation as crisis with resource-rich province on the brink of failure
- Says external help is essential, claiming some police are smuggling weapons for warlords
Premier Francis Potape said an escalating wave of armed violence exacerbated by some police officers was threatening critical liquefied natural gas and oil resources.
“Police in Hela province are good but there are also a few individuals who are rogue police and they assisted war lords to bring in weapons from the neighbouring highland provinces. And also, also they have supplied bullets to warring tribes,” he said.
“This accumulation of weapons came to a stage where it is, that part of the province, of the country, is coming to a failed, crisis situation and we need someone from the outside.”
Police were refusing to act on arrest warrants against scores of suspects and high-powered weapons were amongst those smuggled into the country, he added.
Tribal fighting in the province is a persistent problem in Hela province but flared up dramatically last year.
In response, a joint PNG police and military intervention was launched to gather as many illegal weapons from local people as possible, reportedly with mixed results.
Exxon-Mobil’s PNG LNG project in Hela — the country’s largest resources venture — has been repeatedly disrupted by incursions and blockades from disgruntled landowners, who complain they have not duped on promised royalties.
Mr Potape did not say if he had run his rather extraordinary request past PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Australian Federal Police representatives could not be reached for comment.