Kapris – lessons from the grave

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday July 25th, 2013

 ONE letter writer describes William Nanua Kapris as a modern day “Robin Hood” and “Ned Kelly” combined.

Another describes his modus operandi as mimicking the work of criminal mastermind and notorious black criminal, King Larry Hoover, who was known in the United States’ Colorado prison as the “minister”.

Kapris was also often referred to as “minister” in prison. 

By whatever name, Kapris, bank robber extraordinaire, murder suspect and three-time escapee, is now dead – shot on Monday by police outside Port Moresby along with fellow escapee, Raphael Walimini.

As police commissioner Toami Kulunga says, we can all breathe a sigh of relieve “now that a sad part of the country’s history is behind us”.

We can look to the future but we must neither forget this sad part of our history nor lose sight of the lessons that are there for the nation, particularly its law enforcement agencies to take lessons from.

The ease with which Kapris escaped twice from Bomana prison in broad daylight and remained at large for long periods exposes weaknesses in not just Correctional Service operations but the entire national security apparatus.

Indeed, in time it might be found that Kapris has done PNG’s security a favour.

Kapris was a friend and a hero to many. On Monday night when news spread in Port Moresby that he had been killed, a crowd gathered at Boroko police station and at Port Moresby General Hospital. When his killing was confirmed, many people from many different parts of PNG wept. 

This is not to evoke emotions and support for a criminal but there is a powerful lesson in this.

It is: Criminals such as Kapris are protected and kept from the police for lengthy periods of time. Sometimes they simply “disappear” into the crowd. They question is: Why? 

Find the answer to this and much of the cost of chasing down criminals will be ended.

He was a high profile criminal celebrity committing big crimes to rob enough money to share with the poor.

The very people who feel they have been neglected and abandoned by leaders – who they see as bigger and far worse criminals simply because they do not share.

Kapris exposed corruption within the CS and the police. He laid bare the lack of discipline and command and control. 

Kapris confessed in court that many in positions of influence, including MPs and ministers, had aided and abetted  him. As a prisoner, he said he was used by people “operating from the outside”.

Nobody took any note and certainly no action was taken. PNG’s loss.

Again, Kapris confessed in court that he sexual liaisons on a number of occasions with a female warder and possibly others as well. 

Sex has a most powerful pull. When he did escape again, it was through a  conduit provided by his sexual partners. 

Sadly, no serious action was taken to plug the loophole he himself exposed in court so he took advantage of it for his own benefit. The loophole exists and other prisoners are exploiting it still.

Kapris was well-protected after he escaped. A multi-million kina manhunt failed to net him for almost two months. He never left Port Moresby. 

Policemen helped him, the police hierarchy have said. 

We now know that at the time of his death, a serving defence force soldier was with him. Two female friends were also with him.

He was one step ahead of police everywhere. 

Police would turn up and would find warm mattresses and even unfinished meals and opened beer bottles, but no Kapris. 

Somebody was doing an excellent job tipping him off and it could only have been somebody in the know in the police force.

Kapris did a final favour inadvertently for the disciplined forces. The cash-strapped agencies who lacked resources would suddenly get multi-million kina injections into their operations whenever he was on the move.

That comes to an end now he is dead but rather than celebrate his death, the security agencies would do well to take another look at the weaknesses that this one criminal has exposed with a view to correcting them.

If that is done, a callous criminal will have contributed to the betterment of the country, albeit inadvertently.