The National, Friday 31st May 2013
POLICE officers have been blamed for illegal sales and consumption of alcohol in Southern Highlands, provincial liquor licensing commissioner Lones Nali said on Wednesday.
Nali said in Port Moresby that beer and other alcoholic products were being smuggled to the province through the Kandep-Mendi, Tambul-Mendi and Tona-Peambil roads.
He was responding to concerns that despite a liquor ban in the province, alcohol continued to be smuggled in with the authorities doing nothing about it.
“We are doing everything to try to prevent the smuggling of alhohol. My workers and I cut open 27 metal containers a day to check for alcohol which, if found, are confiscated and destroyed at a later date,” Nali said.
“It has come to our attention that certain police officers are also entangled in this web of liquor smugglers.
“They provide police escorts for the smugglers using government vehicles.”
Beer and other alcoholic products, smuggled into the two provinces, would find their way into black markets in resource project areas of Tari, Komo, Nipa, Kutubu and Mendi.
The selling price is K10 a bottle of beer or K240 a carton.
Nali said policing and enforcing of the liquor ban and consumption were not the job of the commission.
“We are not policemen. We cannot apprehend, question or arrest offending traders and consumers. Police have the powers by law to do so,” he said.
“While I use checkpoints at Kaupena and Wara Gagol bridge to prevent alcohol getting to Southern Highlands and Hela, the checks between Kandep, Tambul, Mendi and Tona-Peambil have failed miserably.
“Many times when we are tipped off and we request for police assistance, no one turns up.”
Nali said many suspects who had been arrested were released without being charged and prosecuted in court.
Senior police officers from the highlands, especially Hela and Southern Highlands, had recently blamed the licensing commission for failing to enforce the liquor ban in the province.
They said the ban could not be enforced because liquor was being smuggled into Southern Highlands and Hela, worsening the crime situation.