Law and order a two-way street


TWO interesting comments were made by prominent Papua New Guineans over the weekend.
Police Commissioner Gari Baki called for police officers across the nation to continue to work hard to earn the respect and trust of the people despite criticisms against them.
Baki made the remarks at the 128th anniversary celebrations of the Royal PNG Constabulary in Port Moresby last Saturday.
Meanwhile, several hundred kilometres away in the country’s interior Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tommy Tomscoll appealed the people of Laiagam in the Enga to look after the K2.5 million Yapai potato project by not causing law and order problems in the district. In the two cases, one can see the both spectrums of the law and order issue in this country and how maintaining peace and good order in any community is a two-way street.
Initially, one would argue that the primary responsibility for keeping the peace and maintaining law and order in society is the job of the police force, but people also tend to forget that they individually and collectively have a role to play to
help to achieve that outcome.
The PNG police force has been maligned over the years for its failure to carry out its duties not just in law enforcement and curbing crime rates but generally in the way they are perceived by the public and the good will they do not engender in many communities.
In many regards, the police force is a State department that suffers from the ills of many under-funded and ill-equipped instruments of the Government but the part they play can never be underestimated.
Without the police force’s presence anarchy and tribalism would likely gain a foothold in this nation.
We can be thankful that throughout the 41 years of being a sovereign state there have been only one major conflict in our nationhood that has threatened peace and normalcy on a large scale – that was the Bougainville crisis of the late 1980s.
But that problem was not law and order based but rather a result of the disenfranchisement of Bougainvilleans and their natural resources and land by the state and Australian miner Rio Tinto.
Baki knows that his force faces a huge challenge in earning and keeping the trust of the public but he also knows that having a cooperative populace especially one that abides by and upholds the law is beneficial for everyone.
“The constabulary has persistently come under a barrage of public scrutiny – all for the wrong reasons,” Baki said.
He spoke of creating and maintaining partnership with the private sector and government departments in order to facilitate the work of the police.
That has a lot of merit and it would be good to see companies and state departments spend some time and effort doing their part in community policing because leaving it all entirely to the body designated to provide that service has not and does not always work.
On the other side of the coin but closely related to the issue of law and order, Tomscoll was adamant that for a agricultural project to be guaranteed a success the local communities had to in a sense take ownership of the security issue and work in tandem with the developer and the state.
The onus in this case is put partly on the people because as it is in the Highlands region and in deed many other rural parts of the country, police presence is limited in scope.
That being the case, the impetus for ensuring that there is a basic level of law and order is with the people.
“The biggest thing we expect from you is law and order,” Tomscoll said.
“Where the project exists there must be no crime, where the project exists there must be peace in the area so that we can create an environment where men and women will be happy to work.”
Tomscoll and Baki made sensible and commendable appeals their audiences.
Law and order is everyone’s responsibility not just the police but in saying that the Baki and his men have the mandated duty of being the first respondents while the rest of society are bound by their sense of citizenship to follow the laws of the land.

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