The National, Tuesday July 16th, 2013
By MALUM NALU
THE Government will no longer tolerate the unruly behaviour of “rogue” soldiers, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Defence Minister Fabian Pok warned in separate statements yesterday.
O’Neill warned that members of the disciplined forces who went on armed mob-style attacks against citizens and destroyed public properties would face instant dismissal without service benefits.
“Enough is enough,” he said when condemning the weekend attack on students and facilities at the Medical Faculty of the University of PNG by a handful of armed soldiers.
His direction would be formalised and enforced immediately without exception on all uniformed PNG servicemen and women.
The medical faculty is located near the Port Moresby General Hospital, and the attack disrupted services at the country’s largest hospital.
Pok expressed “great sadness and shame” at the rampage and declared that “we are very determined to see that this does not happen again”.
“I want to stress here that I want this to be the last of such incidents,” Pok told news reporters at Murray Barracks, flanked by members of the Defence Force hierarchy, adding that he had directed commander Brig-Gen Francis Agwi to immediately start a full investigation into the incident and take necessary action against the soldiers involved.
The minister said two soldiers alleged to have been involved in the initial incident at Port Moresby General Hospital last Friday, which sparked the rampage, had been arrested while the driver of the vehicle that entered the Taurama campus and other soldiers were being sought.
Pok said the matter had not been discussed with visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who was scheduled to visit the medical faculty did not.
O’Neill said in his statement: “The public and the government can no longer tolerate a few rogue service people in uniform and armed – whether they are soldiers, policemen and women or warders – continue to terrorise citizens or vandalise public properties.
“Our people look up to the men and women serving in the PNG Defence Force for comfort and security.
“When a handful of our servicemen in uniform take the law into their own hands and start attacking our citizens and destroying facilities built by taxpayers for our children, it becomes a matter of concern.
“This kind of unruly behaviour erodes the confidence of the community in institutions that are meant to protect our people and guard against external threats.”
O’Neill warned police similarly last week after an incident.
Pok said: “As of today, this must stop.
“Disciplinary charges will be laid and if guilty will be removed from the Defence Force,” he said.
“We will not have rogue officers with the force spoiling the name of good officers.
“Any criminal matter will be referred to the police force and police will take their cause of action.
“We must not allow Defence Force to become a tribal organisation where soldiers do what they want to do.
“If something is wrong, I ask them to take it to police.
“Whoever takes matters into their own hands will be dealt with and removed from the force.”