Another death in police custody

Editorial, Normal

The National – Monday, June 27, 2011

WHEN someone breaks into your home and robs you, you call the police.
But, when policemen break the law, who do you call?
Of course, there are dozens of wantoks you can call up, and we in PNG are inclined in that direction, but it is not right.
Two wrongs never make a right.
Yet, in this country, there is occasion for this question to rise again and again as we face brutal violence perpetrated by policemen right across the country.
Last Friday, answering a complaint, East New Britain police charged onto the campus of the Kokopo Business College, literally with guns blazing.
Teargas was fired into a student dormitory and, from what we can gather, a number of male students were
assaulted by police.
Three male students were hauled off to the police station and, early the next day, the deputy principal who went to check on his charges discovered the dead body of final year management student, one Stanis Jiki, from East Sepik, in the police cell where he had been incarcerated the previous night.
When the news was made known to the students, they mobilised in retaliation and damaged tens of thousands of kina worth of school property and burnt down the administration block.
The vandalism and arson stemmed directly from the death of the student.
Does this situation not ring a bell?
Was it not in the neighbouring town of Kimbe earlier this year that another young man died from injuries he sustained at the hands of police at the Kimbe police station?
Did this death not spark off a similar, but much bigger,riot which saw millions of kina worth of property destroyed in Kimbe?
So, where are the culprit policemen from that earlier homicide?
Weeks have passed into months and we are yet to be told whether any policemen have been charged in relation to the case and when their case might appear in court.
They seem to have done the impossible and disappeared into thin air.
Now, we have an almost exact replica of Kimbe in Kokopo.
There is a complaint.
Police charged in and the violence meted out is completely disproportionate to the crime – if there was a crime committed in the first place.
A body turns up in the police cells.
We can only imagine what must have happened that evening.
The badly beaten up students are packed into a cell to spend the night.
Through the night, seeing the life slipping out of the management student, the other friends would have tried to raise the alarm and pleaded with their captors but to no avail.
And, so, the student just succumbed to his injuries.
Whatever his crimes of the previous day – the day he completed his examinations – whatever his dreams for the future, he did not deserve to die in that manner in a police
station, no less.
Fifty students have been rounded up to be charged for the arson and vandalism.
To our knowledge, no policemen has been held for the death of the student.
Questions will only begin to be asked if a formal complaint is laid and that is the word from the provincial police commander, Sylvester Kalaut.
This has to be a joke.
It is the height of injustice that there is this disproportionate treatment by the police in their approach.
We are told by Kalaut that 50 students are being held over the burning of the administration building but that police will only launch an internal investigation only after a formal complaint is laid by somebody in relation to the death of the final year management student, Stanis Jiki.
So, which is the more serious crime in the opinion of Kalaut and his policemen; the arson or the homicide?
From what we can gather, it would appear the police are more concerned with the arson than the death of the student.
It seems the height of stupidity.
We hope that better judgment prevails among those higher up in the hierarchy and that the killing of this student is investigated thoroughly and those responsible brought to justice.
That is what The National and right-thinking law-abiding citizens will always ask for as we have always done.
As to whether we see justice done, particularly with regards to where police brutality is concerned, we are not sure we will get it.