Baki needs to walk the walk

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday June 10th, 2015

 POLICE Commissioner Gari Baki has only been in the job for a few weeks and already he has a serious issue to deal with. 

The actions of Western Highlands police last Friday in entering neighbouring Enga and wreaking havoc on innocent people shows that while the commissioner can talk the talk, he has definitely got his work cut out for him in terms of steering the force back on the path where professionalism and an ethical code of conduct are things that govern the actions of police officers around the country.

That professionalism was completely lacking when a group of mostly Mt Hagen-based police personnel numbering 150 took it upon themselves to cross jurisdictional lines apparently with the intent of apprehending a suspect who had fled over the border after an earlier incident.

Compounding Baki’s problem was the mass breakout at Morobe’s Buimo prison by 68 inmates last Friday.

Now Baki has to contain a situation that is likely to affect businesses and public safety in the country’s second largest city and even other parts of PNG.

The police are obviously not responsible for the jail break but it is now incumbent upon them to capture the escapees who will most likely pose a threat to those they come in contact with not to mention the businesses that may be targets for these felons.

Enga Provincial Police Commander Dominic Kakas said the incursion by Western Highlands police was “an act of hooliganism” and confirmed that homes were burnt down and private property destroyed in the process.  

But it does not end there Kakas is due to furnish Highlands Police chief Terry Tei with a report on the matter and strongly recommend for action to be taken against those involved.

The public’s eyes will be on the outcome of the investigations, if any, on this latest incident. 

If the good commissioner is to be taken at his word on enforcing discipline in the force and coming down hard on rogue elements in the ranks and an inherent lack of respect and consideration for proper procedure and due diligence then he must act decisively now. He needs to step in and ensure that every one of those 150 police officers and any civilians who had a hand in the destruction of the homes and businesses is held accountable and that justice is served.

If he does not then he runs the risk of having a tenure that will be just as difficult and trying as his predecessor Jeffrey Vaki’s was.  

There are no short cuts and certainly no amount of rhetoric that can correct this problem and Commissioner Baki will need to grab this bull by the horns and meet out adequate disciplinary action on his Western Highlands personnel who blatantly broke the law.

The glaring problem that is highlighted by this incident is the absence of a working accord between provincial police forces. 

One has to wonder if there is a procedure in place as Kakas claims and if there is one, why it was not followed.

If there was a procedure in place who gave the order to act and what has the Western Highlands provincial police commander done about pulling his men in line? 

Or is that something he is comfortable with leaving to others to sort out?

With the Hanubada shootings still under investigation – for too long some have said – the police force is being painted into a corner and its reputation tested at every turn.

Much of the problems in the police force are of its own doing. 

The constant issue of brutality, violence against the public, corruption, a lack of direction at the upper echelons, a breakdown in discipline within the ranks, a lax and all too often poor attitude to addressing daily matters and a poor public image has done the force no favours.

One could say Papua New Guinea police personnel generally have it tough in terms of their conditions and pay but that is no excuse to carry out wanton acts of violence on the public all in the name of upholding the law.

Is a police officer’s poor living and working conditions justification for their poor behaviour? 

Baki has accepted the hot seat with open arms and has exhibited fervour to get the job done and instigate long lasting positive change. 

It is time to walk the walk.