By JAMES APA GUMUNO
SHORTAGE of policemen in Southern Highlands province has resulted in the closure of nine rural police stations in the province.
That leaves 10 rural police stations still operational. The province had 19.
To make matters worse, 125 short-listed police recruits from the province selected to undergo further training in Port Moresby this month are stranded in the province because of no funding coming from the provincial government.
The police recruitment drive in the province was initiated by the provincial government to increase the police manpower in the province with a budget allocation of K1 million last year.
So far, K200,000 was released last year but K800,000 is yet to be released for the travel, uniforms and accommodation for the new recruits.
Provincial police commander Supt Jimmy Onopia expressed concern last Friday that the law and order problem in the province was escalating and he had very limited police manpower to address the problems.
Mr Onopia has 118 men, including two mobile squads for a province that has over 600,000 people.
This number is expected to rise to 800,000 with an influx of people seeking opportunities with the PNG LNG project.
Because of the shortage of policemen, he had to close down rural police stations like Lake Kopiago, Koroba, Komo, Magarima, Upper Karens, Komea, Yombi, Wabia, Pimiga and Erave.
Supt Onopia said the provincial government initiated a good project to recruit local policemen and women to serve in their own province by increasing the police numbers but due to delay in releasing the funds, it is likely to affect the training schedule of the 125 short- listed candidates.
He said police in the province also need new vehicles for the two mobile squads.