By PNG Echo.
I’ve been incommunicado on the other side of the world for some weeks, so yesterday (24 October 2014) with good internet connections temporarily restored, I was shocked to learn that tensions and conflict within the police service in PNG seems to have escalated.
Why should that be so when the Supreme Court on October 2 clarified the constitutional position confirming that the Commissioner of Police has ultimate authority and control of his men – and that the duty of a police officer was to obey the orders of superiors?
Well, seems some ‘rogue’ police officers have chosen to disregard the ruling of PNG’s highest court.
A dissident faction, led by Chief Inspector Damaru and Inspector Gitua, seem to have forgotten they are first and foremost police officers and have become righteous zealots, hell bent on carrying out an arrest warrant on the Prime Minister, notwithstanding that the courts have stayed the warrant and regardless of the fact that their superior officer, Commissioner Vaki is currently seeking a judicial review of that same warrant.
These police officers are not only disobeying a chain of command but they are also conveniently ignoring the judgments of the court while screaming from the hilltops about no one being above the law – except themselves, apparently!
Things had gotten so out of hand that it became necessary for the Prime Minister to go to court to have a restraining order put on the police in general. O’Neill, his advisors, lawyers and security personnel have been physically intimidated according to the submissions, and the court gave orders restraining police from continuing with this behaviour towards all named parties and they are also restrained from effecting an arrest on the PM.
In the handing down of the decision, Justices, Canning, Hartshorn and Mikail spoke of the court’s reluctance, to interfere in the normal discharge of police power but emphasized that the courts would not hesitate to intervene in cases where there appeared to have been an abuse of police power.
“In our opinion, on the face of it, the evidence before us suggests that there has been an abuse of police power…It is therefore necessary for the court to intervene.”
But the zealotry of the dissident duo didn’t stop at physical intimidation of O’Neill and his entourage, for while the Police Commissioner was in New Zealand on official business, Chief Inspector, Damaru and Inspector Gitua used the time to advantage to file contempt charges against 10 police officers who were not simpatico with their position.
Yet more subterfuge was allegedly to ensue: according to the court submissions, police officers were misled into complying by falsehoods and the use of harassment and intimidation that included threats of ‘contempt’ charges against the reluctant.
These contempt charges included Commission Geoffrey Vaki, Acting Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Jim Andrews and Commander Jerry Frank (that made up the 13 altogether) over them not effecting the arrest warrant. (Hallo: it’s stayed!)
The unanimous bench of the Supreme Court begged to differ with the renegade cops and stayed the contempt charges too “…until further order of the court” calling them “unnecessary” and “premature.”
But their most optimistic salvos were the motions filed against seemingly anyone and everyone who were standing in the way of Damaru and Gitua’s pious quest – especially lawyers doing their job.
But the one that made me laugh out loud was the Notice of Motion filed in the District Court wanting the Attorney General charged for instructing the Solicitor General to represent the State. What?
No matter how strong or righteously held your convictions may be, it is the law that rules Papua New Guinea and the Supreme Court has been very clear on that – and the law says what the court says it says and the Supreme Court has spoken with one voice.
So how could Opposition Leader, Belden Namah have gotten it so wrong?
I read Namah’s press release before I read the court documents and the submissions giving rise to the recent decision.
This man lives in a parallel universe – but worse than harbouring his own delusions, he and the ‘Barmy Army’ distributes ‘The warped thinking of the political pariah, Captain Nutso,’ through a heavily censored social media site that will brook no dissension whatsoever, (so in effect is just ‘preaching to the choir’ or those that are either terminally bewildered or easily bullied.)
Even the language in Namah’s press release needs some creative interpretation to understand. I mean, I shouldn’t think anyone would want the explosive situation within the police ‘diffused’ (spread over a wider area) would they? Wouldn’t it be better ‘defused’, Belden?
In the very first paragraph of the press release the Opposition Leader reminds the police of their oath to serve the people of Papua New Guinea as opposed to the Prime Minister or even himself, as if neither are in that category of the ‘People.’ Anyway, we all know Namah’s penchant for the Mobile Squad in times of trouble, don’t we?
But when Namah condemns the stand-off between factions of the police force, I can do nothing but agree – except when he then speaks of a “bare minority” who have been “…manipulated by powerful politicians” I have a feeling he is talking of the Commissioner of Police while, conversely, endorsing the ‘rogue’ element.
The Supreme Court has done the opposite.
Namah then goes on to unconscionably issue reminders and veiled threats to police about “treasonable” actions (presumably he means not arresting the PM although there is a court restraining order). When Namah says that their “insubordination is intolerable” ironically, what he is actually doing is encouraging it. Now that is what may, in fact, be treason.
Besides, what he says just doesn’t have much gravitas. I mean, there is a picture indelibly etched in many peoples’ mind of Namah charging into the court mob-handed – flanked by police pointing at the Chief Justice who was in the process of hearing a case, yelling: “Arrest him! Arrest him!” (Talk of insubordination!)
Anyway, be that as it may, Namah places all of the blame for the situation at the feet of the Prime Minister (and as Mandy Rice-Davies so famously said “well he would, wouldn’t he?”) Ah but Belden, you’re playing politics just as much as O’Neill is, you’re just not as good at it. Sorry!
Towards the end of the press release we get into the unfathomable again – the “Say What?” moment: Namah exhorting O’Neill to ‘…leave these poor people alone..,” I don’t know who the hell he’s talking about either.
Which takes us back to the point where we started -“diffusing”. Seems Namah, in the penultimate paragraph of the press release wants to spread the tensions and the “serious security situation” that he has identified more widely.
No you don’t, fool – you want it ‘defused’ for pity’s sake.
PNG really dodged a bullet when it rejected this man as a Prime Ministerial material. Well done you!
My point: however the loud, intimidating and delusional spin it, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea has spoken. Listen to them – because if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.