UPHOLDING the law should remain the highlight of the overall duty and responsibility of a police officer, Minister for Justice and Attorney-General and Rabaul MP, Dr Allan Marat said.
He said the most dominant feature of a police officer’s job was the duty to uphold the Constitution and the protection of Papua New Guinea’s citizens from harm, including the protection of property both public and private.
Dr Marat was speaking at the opening of the Commonwealth Secretariat National Human Rights Police Training in Kokopo on Monday.
He said the role of a police officer today was difficult given the many challenges, personal dangers, criticisms, legal actions, expectations and achievements faced in their daily work as law enforcement officers.
Dr Marat said there were, however, instances when in his capacity as Minister for Justice, he felt let down when our very own policemen who had been mandated by the law to uphold the protection of its citizens failed to do so.
He said out of zeal, some police officers overrun the rights of citizens as provided by the Constitution or simply applied the law as if they were the law.
Dr Marat said a few areas that police officers overlooked included turning away battered women simply telling them it was a family issue, young people and disabled persons being offloaded from PMVs by drivers, the State having to pay millions through court orders to persons who lost property due to the actions of policemen and people being locked up without appropriate charges being laid.
“The underlining point I should like to draw your attention to is the safeguards provided by the National Constitution, particularly the basic rights provisions that provide for the right to life, freedom from inhuman treatment and protection of the law,” he said.
Dr Marat said the training would complement the work of police as law enforcement officers in knowing what they were allowed to do and what should be done in the course of their daily enforcement work and their roles regarding respect for human beings in society.
He said the Government had been and continued to actively engage in national human rights issues, including ensuring its commitment to the many obligations it had as a member of the international community of nations under the United Nations system.
Dr Marat said work on the establishment of a national human rights institution was at an advanced stage.
This institution would, hopefully, fill in the existing gaps to allow an institution to directly deal with and enable a holistic approach to handling of human rights issues in PNG, he said.