Lae crime reaches new depth

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday November 10th, 2015

 TWO crimes reported in Lae last week should have the residents of that city deeply concerned. 

An ethnic clash between settlers from the Highlands and Morobe saw communities in the Boundary Road area fearing for their safety and their property, homes and other goods as both groups engaged in hand to hand combat as well as using dangerous weapons.

The other incident is what every parent fears the most – losing a child. Police apprehended a 20-year-old man for allegedly killing a seven-year-old boy. 

The gruesome murder was compounded by the fact that there was no clear motive. What kind of individual would do such a thing?

Lae residents and indeed peaceful, law-abiding communities everywhere must condemn this vile and abhorrent act. 

The boy was allegedly sexually assaulted during the attack and one can only wonder what kind of individuals we have in our midst; what manner of man can perpetrate such a heinous act against 

an innocent, defenceless child?

The boy was apparently lured away from his friends by the killer and brutalised before the body was hidden.

If activists are not shocked or moved by the horror of this crime then Papua New Guinean society needs to take a long hard look at itself. 

It seems the general state of lawlessness that sometimes occurs in this country all too regularly has had a desensitising effect on the people. 

Speculation has been rife about the reason for the boy’s murder with some blaming cult activity and the influence of such practices on impressionable youth; others have said a drug-induced haze may have contributed to the killer’s impulse but the fact that he brought the child away from the safety of the group points to some kind of premeditation.

Therefore the killer must be given the heaviest penalty under PNG law.

In the other incident, what started out as a disagreement between vendors at a local market soon escalated into fighting between groups of men from Chuave (Simbu) and Okapa (Eastern Highlands) and locals from the province, mostly from Sialum.

The concerning thing about this episode of violence was that the Lae Police and city authority could not bring the situation under control quickly.  

Lae Police Operations commander Chief Inspector Timothy Pomoso said the situation was quite tense but his men had managed to restore some level of normalcy to the affected communities in the flashpoint area.

He said a preventive order was taken by the Lae Urban local level government peace and good order committee and served on the factions involved in the fighting to prevent them from continuing the violence.

It is interesting to note that a community group that operates in the fighting zone as it were, have claimed that efforts by the police invariably needed the community’s support not just in terms of helping to identify criminals but to actually facilitate the process.

Roy Miringke of the Eastern Highlands Welfare Association stated plainly that community policing was needed to supplement the work of the chief law enforcement agency.

He claims it would be much more practical to equip a local law and order office of the LLG to carry out the work that the police have so far struggled to do. 

This is not a criticism of Lae’s police force which has had to deal with a range of challenges in making Papua New Guinea’s second largest city habitable and a place where commerce and industry can flourish.

Miringke’s idea has merit. The country has an inadequate number of police personnel to deliver a decent standard of law enforcement to its citizenry.

“They (law and order office) need to be given vehicles, fuel and logistics and other help to go around and ensure peace is restored,” Miringke said.

This approach could be useful in a city like Lae where the level of crime seems to overwhelm the police. 

They need help but the question is will sharing the work of keeping the streets, businesses and homes safe necessarily reduce crime rates or simply add to the confusion?

Whatever solution they come up with one thing must be made clear whenever there are ethnic clashes or trouble that brews between groups and threatens to spill over into the daily operations of the city, the response by the police must be fast, decisive and effective.