WE are flabbergasted by Police Commissioner Gari Baki’s attitude towards the high-powered guns which Customs seized at the Jackson International Airport over the weekend.
First he said he was not aware of having signed any approvals for the importation of the weapons. Later, he reversed his statement to say he remembered approving the importation of the gun.
He promised to do something about it as soon as he has seen the Customs report on the issue.
Read together, the memory failure and the remarks are flippant and uncaring, almost as if to say there more important matters to attend to than this.
We put it to the Police Commissioner that this is the most important issue facing his administration and this nation at present: the prevalence and use of high-powered guns, the lax laws dealing with weapons and ammunition manufacturing, importation, transportation and handling of them.
We are talking here about four assault rifles and a pistol which Customs confiscated during a routine check at the airport.
Air Niugini says the weapons were declared and cleared by the Philippines police and airport authorities.
PNG Customs officials say that the weapons were not declared in the prohibited goods declaration form and that they were discovered during a routine, random luggage check.
Whatever were the weapons doing in a luggage?
Aren’t there rules and regulations about safe cartage of dangerous weapons?
If the weapons were cleared in Manila, as Air Niugini suggests, they should have been properly stowed in approved and secure packaging.
Since they were not, we are quite at a loss as to what the standards of safety are employed at this international destination where Papua New Guineans go regularly at this time of heightened international terrorist activity.
That is, of course, if what we are hearing is true.
Other questions beg answering.
First we heard that the man transporting these weapons was a former employee of an arms dealer. Later, we are told he was rehired.
If he was rehired and that this was a proper arms import, then we question the methods by which this arms dealer imports highly dangerous weaponry.
Is it standard practice for this company, perhaps to escape special charges, to carry dangerous arms in employees’ cargo?
And has the company been escaping Customs duties by not declaring the weapons?
We have been told clearly by Customs Commissioner Gary Juffa that there are important procedures in place to be followed for any arms importation.
Mr Juffa is supposed to countersign an import permit. In this case, the Police Commissioner is said to have signed such a permit on Oct 6 but Mr Juffa never did. Something just is not right.
On top of it all, there is a suggestion that this might actually be an order by the State.
And this is the kind of lax nonsense that has been going on between State agencies resulting in so many losses of heavy weapons, which are used to kill, mutilate, rape and frighten our citizens.
If these guns fall into the wrong hands, at some point in the future, one of Commissioner Baki’s police personnel might be shot with them. Whose fault will it be then?
The guns issue is so serious in this country but everywhere we look, we see a certain inertia and reluctance to discuss this issue.
Might this be because each big man is a warlord with his own arms cache and his own band of armed followers ready to take up arms against all and sundry?
Are we going the way of some of those countries we only read about these days?
We were promised early this year that there would be a national inventory on police-issue weapons and ammunition. Has this happened? What are the findings?
The Guns Summit Report was tendered into the hands of the Prime Minister by retired Gen Jerry Singirok after it was completed.
It was copied to the Internal Security Minster, the Police Commissioner and the Attorney-General. All copies were lost within months. It is yet to be tabled in Parliament three years on.
It is frighteningly obvious why PNG continues to have a law and order problem: It is because of such callousness and carelessness.