Give top priority to law and order

Editorial, Normal

THE attack on Chief Ombudsman Commissioner Chronox Manek was quite obviously premeditated. It was planned. The attackers knew where he lived. They followed him to where he was on the fateful evening and decided that this was the night.
He was tailed that evening from an official function. He became aware and lost the tail or thought he did. As he was pulling up at his house gate, beeping his horn as countless others do, for the family to open the gate, it happened.
A vehicle pulled up right behind him, blocking off his exit and three men flung open the doors and moved in on him. Two went to the front and side to block off any escape he might attempt on foot. The gunman strode to the side of the driver, pointed a pistol at Mr Manek’s head and squeezed the trigger. The bullet struck Mr Manek on the shoulder and exited out the back. Mr Manek believed there was a second shot but it is not certain. He was already in a state of shock.
Shocked he might have been but panic he did not. As Public Prosecutor and now as Chief Ombudsman, Mr Manek has led strong legal battles against dangerous criminals of both the street and high office variety.
Like every other prosecutor, he has always lived with threats and knew that one day the threats might be actually carried out. So when it did happen, he was shocked but he did not panic and that most probably saved his life.
Mr Manek knew instantly when the car pulled up behind him that he was under attack. He put his car into reverse and backed into the other car. In so doing, he caused the gunman to change his aim.
This response, quick and aggressive, also panicked his attackers. They had planned on gunning down a quite helpless and frightened man trapped between his gate and the car behind. The counter move shocked the attackers and they ran off after firing only two shots.
Whether in shock or whether he was plain angry, Mr Manek gave chase for a time before he realised he was becoming dizzy from loss of blood and drove himself to Paradise Hospital where he was treated.
Had the criminal also known that the bullet would be deflected after shattering the glass, Mr Manek’s life might have ended that night in front of his gate.
The circumstances suggest that this was no warning to frighten Mr Manek. This was a killing run. The circumstances equally suggest that this was no mere opportunistic criminal attack. Because it was planned it must have something to do with Mr Manek’s professional life.
Now it has happened, we have passed from possibility to reality. An invisible barrier has been crossed. Copycat attacks can and will be launched. It forebodes ill for the country.
Member for Imbonggu, Francis Awesa, yesterday referred to this attack as another manifestation of corruption and crime being deep-rooted and having taken control of society. We do not think his likening the attack to a mafia-type attack that we only read about or see in movies is inaccurate or melodramatic.
As PNG prepares for far more revenue flowing into the economy than ever before, the stakes have suddenly been upped. Greed increases and where greed reigns, you will find violence. Greedy people will protect their ill-gotten wealth and protect the evil ways. If they must kill in the process, they will.
Mr Awesa suggested the enactment of the much talked about and much delayed Anti-Corruption Act to bring in the Anti-Corruption Commission. Yes, there is an idea but it alone will not work. The National suggests that law and order should become the single biggest project in the country over the balance of this term of Parliament, equivalent to and perhaps surpassing the Universal Basic Education plan in the cost factor alone.
Billions of kina ought to be poured into tripling the current police strength of 4,000. We propose the force be trained in the best tactics, be equipped and be paid and accommodated properly. We propose equal attention be paid to complementary and more specialised fields like forensic science, to investigation and prosecution, to fraud and undercover work.
The court system, the Government’s legal capacity and the capacity of jails and correctional programmes must be incorporated into this system.
We propose hundreds of millions of kina be spent on public awareness to change our attitudes, to clean up our minds as well as our backyards. We propose a coalition of civil society, of business society, of public service, of school children to think and say no to crime.