More effort needed in probes

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday October 22nd, 2015

 THE Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary has done itself a disservice through its inconclusive work on investigating the January 23 killings at Hanuabada village in the National Capital District.

It appears that from what the investigators have done, there are a lot of loose ends hanging and questions begging answers.

When the investigation report was first released a few months back, it merely attempted to lay the blame for the deaths – as did initial police reports – on unnamed members of the disbanded NCD reserve police unit.

The report therefore did not go down well with the villagers because to them it was not conclusive and failed to put into correct perspective the sequence of events and point out those actually involved. 

It is no surprise now that the new NCD Metropolitan Superintendant Benjamin Turi has sharply criticised the work of his colleagues to determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two young men on that fateful day. 

In Turi’s words, the work done by the investigating team was very shallow and more or a concealment than a proper investigation.

And barring the express direction of the Police Commissioner himself, the assertion by the city police boss is as good as throwing the long weeks’ work back at the investigation team and ordering them to shred it and start all over again. 

Or let someone else do it.

Turi said the matter would be re-investigated after discussion with the villagers. 

He was to have met the villagers yesterday to hear them and offer his assurance that another, hopefully more conclusive inquiry into the killings would be done. 

The Hanuabada shooting caused about two weeks of chaos in Port Moresby and sent ripple effects to other parts of the country.  

Access into and out of the city’s main fuel depot was blocked off by angry villagers and fuel ran critically short in the city.  

If it had prolonged, effects of the stand-off would have been disastrous.

Families mourned the loss of young men one of whom left a child who is now growing up not knowing what his father looked like. 

When former Police Commission Jeffrey Vaki commissioned an investigation into the incident, the villagers hoped that it would result in bringing to justice those responsible.

To their credit, the villagers and especially close relatives of the deceased, showed great courage and grace in openly pardoning those responsible for the deaths.

All eyes were then on the Commissioner Vaki to get his investigators to do their work. 

But what transpired from that is hardly convincing.

According to Supt Turi, “some statements weren’t into the nitty-gritty of the case like who fired the shot, which vehicle was used and how did they get out the crime scene”. 

“It was rushed and a lazy work done, more of a cover-up type of investigation knowing that some of them were involved.”

“A new director will be appointed to head a fresh investigation team and when it is done its job, some officers will be charged and suspended from duty.  

“A lot of our policemen are covering up for each other, that’s the problem.”

Members of the investigation team who failed to furnish credible reports could face charges of incompetence, said Turi.

The Hanuabada shootings happened only three weeks after the death of a young mother in Lae on New Year day also at the hands of police. 

But in contrast to the report on the Hanuabada shooting, police investigations into the Lae incident did result in the successful prosecution of the policeman involved.

The two incidents happening only weeks apart had dealt another major blow to the reputation of the RPNG which had already been battered by a string of incidents of police brutality. 

When the constabulary conducts internal investigation into such incidents, the public expects that those investigations are thorough and result in prosecution and or disciplinary action where warranted.

Apart from reassuring concerned aggrieved members of the public by opening a pathway for justice to take its course, a conclusive investigation bringing out the truth also helps maintain the constabulary’s own credibility. 

Concealing fact or shying away from revealing it cannot help anyone.