Agwi back in command

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 27th January 2012

PNG Defence Force commander Brig-Gen Francis Agwi, who was placed under house arrest for more than 12 hours yesterday by a group of rogue officers, is back at the helm.
It followed the lack of support by senior officers for an attempted takeover of the military force by retired army colonel Yaura Sasa.
Sasa had tried to summon a military briefing of the top brass but senior officers refused to attend as they were suspicious of his sudden rise to power.
Sources said at about 2pm yesterday, the commander of the military police was allegedly shot at. Members of the military police retaliated and arrested 15 members of the group loyal to Sasa.
After negotiations, chief of staff Col Tom Ur took control of the barracks and disbanded Sasa’s group, restoring normalcy in the Defence Force command at about 5pm.
Sasa, almost 60, is from Morobe. He was defence attaché to Indonesia in 1999-2003 before being retrenched in 2006. He was believed to be living in Lae awaiting his final benefits from the department.
His men, armed and numbering about 30, arrived in hired vehicles and stormed the military headquarters at Murray barracks.
They took control of the headquarters and placed Agwi and other senior military officers under house arrest.
Sasa took over Agwi’s seat.
Sources said the soldiers comprised members of the 1RPIR at Taurama barracks, a few members from the sea element, air transport squadron and recruits from the Goldie River training depot.
All gates to the Murray barracks headquarters were blocked to traffic. The media was allowed to attend Sasa’s conference where he declared himself as the legitimate commander of the Defence Force.
However, a faction that opposed the alleged mutiny was grouped at the Murray barracks living quarters.
The Taurama barracks was also cordoned off to traffic and the public.
Military sources at Taurama maintained their neutrality.
Sasa said he had been duly appointed by the government of Sir Michael Somare.
“My immediate and most important task is to restore the integrity and respect for the constitution and the judiciary in PNG,” he said.
“When I enlisted into the PNGDF, I have taken oath and promised to respect, uphold, and protect the Constitution of PNG at all time.
“With my appointment as the commander, I intend to do just that, by taking all necessary actions to ensure the Constitution remains supreme, protected and not subjected to abuse, as it is being done at the moment.”
He called on the head of state to immediately implement the Supreme Court decisions relating to Sir Michael’s position as prime minister.
“I also call on both Sir Michael and Peter O’Neill to recall parliament to sort out the current political situation.
“There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of most people that so much damage has already been inflicted on the Constitution, and I cannot allow this situation to continue to prevail.
“I’m now calling on both parties, and the head of state to respect the Constitution and comply with orders issued by the Supreme Courts immediately within seven days.
“If this call is not heeded, I may be forced to take necessary actions to protect and uphold the integrity of the Constitution”.