Porgera probe team makes first arrests

National, Normal

The National- Tuesday, January 18, 2011

 ACTING police commissioner Tony Wagambie yesterday announced that a special task force that had been investigating  violent crimes, including sexual assault, in Porgera, Enga, has began making arrests. 

“Following three months of intensive investigations, members of the RPNGC investigations taskforce assigned to this issue have now begun to arrest alleged offenders,” Wagambie said.

“After receiving solid intelligence on these matters from the mine managers Barrick Gold and their independent investigators, our task force has moved quickly to identify alleged offenders involved in these matters,” he said.

The investigation has been supported by the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV), Barrick Gold and the local community leaders. 

He said the latest arrests were a warning to those who committed violent acts against others that they too would be brought to justice.

Wagambie said investigations into other reported cases, including alleged abuses by members of the RPNGC in the same area were continuing and he expected more arrests in the coming weeks and months.

“No-one is above the law, even members for the constabulary. Make no mistake – we are coming for them too,” Wagambie said.

The PJV in a statement yesterday also announced that it had sacked employees who had allegedly been involved in or had knowledge of but did not report assaults against women and others. 

The terminations were a result of a thorough internal investigation and are part of several actions Barrick and PJV were now undertaking.

 More people  are expected to be sacked.

“The mine took immediate actions after the disturbing results of an internal investigation into allegations of assaults and other serious crimes. We have terminated employees who were found to have breached our strict code of conduct regarding employee behaviour,” Mark Fisher, Barrick PNG’s executive general manager said. 

“The PJV is taking a zero tolerance policy regarding these incidents. Those who have been terminated are those who have been credibly implicated in criminal activity, alleged to have misled investigators, or were aware of these alleged crimes and did not come forward.”

When the PJV received credible allegations in June 2010, PJV contacted Wagambie and requested a criminal investigation be undertaken. 

The PJV asked former chief ombudsman Ila Geno to conduct an independent inquiry into alleged violence against women cases and report findings directly to the constabulary. 

Barrick also conducted an internal investigation which involved a 15-member independent investigation team. 

This outside investigative team spent several months at the mine interviewing more than 650 employees and conducting a comprehensive investigation of personnel and procedures.

“Wagambie announced today, the police have made arrests and charged some of these individuals with breaking the laws of this country. We have been working in close cooperation with the PNG police and we will continue to provide information and support to aid in their criminal investigation,” Fisher said. 

“We condemn these alleged crimes in the strongest possible terms and wish to see anyone involved brought to justice under PNG law.”

“The PJV does not tolerate any form of violence or human rights abuse – against women or men – and we expect any employee who sees or hears about such acts to immediately report what they know to the appropriate authorities,” Fisher said.