By HELEN TARAWA
Lands and Physical Planning Minister Justin Tkatchenko has called for an investigation into alleged purchase of firearms using department funds that were reported missing.
Tkatchenko told The National that it was a big surprise that the Lands Department had spent public funds on two pistols costing K22,000 for officers.
He said documents indicated that Police Commissioner Gari Baki allegedly authorised two licences to be given to public servants in the department last year and to issue those weapons to them.
“I totally condemn any weapons whatsoever to be held by a public servant from the secretary down,” Tkatchenko, also the Apec Minister, said.
“None of my ministerial staff nor do I even have a gun, I am totally anti-gun, for me the situation is that no one should have a gun, we don’t need guns. We’re are a peaceful society.
“Why do you want to have guns in the Lands Department, who are you scared of, what’s the issue, is it a personal issue or work-related?”
According to documents, only one gun was issue and the person holding onto the weapon is not a public servant.
He is an ordinary Papua New Guinean citizen who has a gun that was allegedly purchased using funds from the Lands Department. It is understood that the permit for the PNG Firearm License had expired early this year, which meant those in possession would be illegally keeping the firearm.
According to Baki’s office, the Lands Department requested for two firearms to be issued under the names of two senior officers.
Upon assessing the situation, approval was given to the department and not under the officers’ names.
Approval was given for one officer on the basis that this firearm remained the property of the Lands Department.
“We’ve done due diligence and we did not facilitate personal requests. It was issued for the department and no one else. Not the individuals concerned,” Baki’s office said.
“After careful consideration, we gave approval to one officer – the licence to carry but the ownership remains with the department.
“We saw that there was a need for the department to have firearms in case senior officers travelled. We also made reference that these officers who had the permit to carry should be properly trained and we referred them to the PNG Gun Club.
“If the officer holding onto the firearm is no longer in the department, then he is supposed to surrender the firearm to the department. Right now the person is illegally holding onto the firearm,” Baki’s office said.
Lands Secretary Luther Sipison in response to questions said he had no idea because he was on suspension from Feb 8, last year to April 24 this year.
However, documents showed that the request for purchase of firearms was from him (Sipison) and Baki’s office had responded to his letter. Tkatchenko said he understood there were more than one gun issues, but perhaps at an earlier date.
“I will write to the police commissioner to investigate this immediately to retrieve these guns that are on the street somewhere in someone’s possession,” he
“These guns are to be returned to police and destroyed. I don’t want any guns in this department or any incidents involving guns being in the Lands Department.
“I am in full support for totally banning any gun in our country and back the prime minister and other leaders of the country.
“It came to a huge shock that we have people in the department who have used public funds to purchase the guns.
“It’s a disgrace and it must be stopped immediately and we will get to the bottom of this.”
By HELEN TARAWA