By REBECCA KUKU
OPPOSITION Leader Belden Namah yesterday told Prime Minister James Marape to first sort out the “violence” in his home province of Hela before trying to “take back PNG”.
In a diatribe directed at government policies on law and order, Namah questioned Marape in Parliament what he planned to do “to take back the towns from warlords, criminals and trigger-happy police officers”.
In particular, Namah highlighted during a “Questions without Notice” session the July 8 massacre in Marape’s Tari-Pori district in which 24 people including children and two pregnant women were killed.
Namah asked Marape if he had visited his district since the killings and whether the perpetrators had been arrested.
He said the incident was reported here and overseas, with Marape later issuing the warning to the criminal elements: “I am coming for you”.
“Can the prime minister tell the country now if any arrests have been made?” he said.
He told Marape that if he wanted to “take back PNG”, he must first take back Tari-Pori and Hela.
Marape in reply said Tari lacked police manpower, with only 60 officers to look after more than 400,000 people.
“For a place like Tari, you do not need community police. You need operational police and prosecuting police,” he said.
“As prime minister, and because it happened in my electorate, I cannot be greedy by mobilising resources to attend to that one matter as law and order issues are prevalent in the country,” Marape said.
He however gave Namah a pat on the back as the opposition leader, and reminded MPs on the government benches to heed advice from the other side.
“We are a democracy which requires our Opposition to be at work. And he (Namah) is just doing what he is supposed to do which is very good for the country,” Marape said.
“For those of us on this side of the house, let us not take personal offence when they raise matters of public importance. I am happy he is promoting Tari in a better light for me. So let me also commend him on that.”
Marape said the July incident was still under investigation. He thanked the families of the women and children killed for refraining from payback killings and allowing police to deal with it.
Namah also took a swipe at Hela Governor Philip Undialu and Defence Force commander Brigadier-General Gilbert Toropo for their roles during a gun-surrender ceremony in the Komo-Margarima district of Hela. Namah condemned Undialu and Toropo for celebrating with locals after the surrendering of guns.
“Why are we celebrating when we are supposed to be arresting them for being in possession of these guns? What is the bigger message?
“Are we saying that you can kill with those guns then come back, surrender them and we will celebrate?” he said.