THE National Government has stepped in to help combat law and order problems in resource-rich Hela.
The National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Kimbe last week approved a new police structure that will see a deputy police commissioner assigned specifically for Hela and the gas project.
The Government, considering the recent spate of law and order problems which have affected the LNG works, agreed to assign the second highest ranking officer to take charge of operations on the ground.
Education Minister and Tari-Pori MP James Marape welcomed the decision, saying it complements efforts of the provincial government and MPs to address law and order issues in Hela.
Mr Marape said yesterday the problems were not related to the multi-billion-kina gas project but were the results of new tribal fights and alcohol-related issues.
“Most of the problems are alcohol-related and the provincial government’s liquor ban which will take effect in May will ease some of these problems.”
Mr Marape, who initiated a peace programme after the 2007 national elections, has seen 20 tribal clans signing peace pacts, promising not to fight again.
He appealed to the groups that have started fresh tribal fights to lay down their arms.
He said the provincial and local level governments had progressed the peace programme by building 36 houses for Correctional Service at Haua and a further 36 police houses in Pai.
Mr Marape said he kick-started the peace programme in Tari district by buying two vehicles.
The Southern Highlands provincial government and Hela MPs have purchased six new vehicles to be used in the peace campaign.
He said the National Development Bank had been established in Tari to ensure the people sought financial assistance to participate in spin-off businesses.
Mr Marape also urged the Government to continue with its law and justice sector programmes in the province.
“These are some of the efforts by the Government, provincial government and MPs to combat law and order in the face of the LNG project.
“Our efforts will be in vain if the local people do not respect the efforts of the leaders at the LLG, district, provincial and national levels.
“We have signed the LBBSA and are happy with the gains totalling about K2 billion of Government commitments to Hela, Southern Highlands, Gulf and Central provinces,” Mr Marape said.
He warmed that huge benefits were at stake if people continued to create law and order problems.
“The MPs and leaders can do what they can but the onus is on the people to take ownership of law and order,” he said.
He appealed to the Hela people to keep their part of the bargain in providing a conducive environment to progress the gas project.