The National, Wednesday July 1st, 2012
THE 1st and 2nd Royal Pacific Islands Regiment (RPIR) were the first of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force 2012 election task force elements to be extracted from Mt Hagen, Western Highlands, yesterday by an Australian Defence Force C130 Hercules.
The C130 touched down at Kagamuga at around 10am to airlift the first extraction of Wewak-based 1RPIR soldiers and returned in the afternoon to load those of 2RPIR.
PNGDF Joint Task Force Commander Lt-Col Ezekia Wenzel told the PNGDF media team at the Kagamuga Airport this was a three-day exercise, with all administrative processes in place to move the Joint Task Force command base in Mt Hagen back to the PNGDF headquarters in Port Moresby.
Wenzel said the men had gone through challenging times amid heavy criticisms and allegations but had humbled themselves and carried out their mission with professionalism and integrity despite minor offences that had been dealt with by the appropriate authorities.
He applauded the performance of the personnel in the highlands, saying the 2012 election was a very important election and the defence force had made it its business in the past two months to make sure the country experienced a free, fair and safe election.
He said it had been the paramount focus of defence authorities and the task force to make sure the people exercised their democratic rights to vote without intimidation and fear.
He paid tribute to the people of the highlands for peacefully appreciating the presence of the security personnel and appealed to the provinces still counting to allow the final days of counting to proceed peacefully.
He said defence personnel had performed to expectations and achieved what they had been tasked to do.
Wenzel said he understood allegations and criticisms were part of progress and development in all areas of work and common in a country such as Papua New Guinea.
The composite company and the Long Range Reconnaissance Unit will be extracted to Port Moresby today.