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Wanted criminal Tommy Baker (right, holding a child) with two of his friends in a recent picture supplied by police at Alotau. Prime Minister James Marape, through church leaders in Alotau, has asked Baker to give himself up peacefully to police. – Picture supplied

PRIME Minister James Marape has appealed to wanted criminal Tommy Baker, who has been evading police since October 2018, to give himself up to police. Marape told The National, that he had sent word to Baker through the churches to surrender.
“I am pleased to say that Baker and his gang have reached out and the police and churches are working through a solution,” he said. Police believe that Baker, who escaped from custody while seeking treatment at the Port Moresby General Hospital on Oct 3, 2018, was behind the clash with police in Alotau town in April, resulting in the burning down of properties including the police barracks. His mother, aunt and uncle are currently detained in prison facing charges of harbouring him. Marape said the churches were brought in to reach out to the fugitive. “Churches will play a pivotal role in ensuring Baker surrenders peacefully to police in Alotau, Milne Bay,” he said. Marape has been speaking to church leaders in Milne Bay who have been “in touch” with Baker and his gang. “It is positive news when the church is assisting by speaking to Baker,” he said. “We have sent police down and the churches have reached out to the gang,” he said. Marape has instructed police to find out the “underlying” issue behind the criminal activities by Baker and his gang members. “It is not a random criminal activity. There is an underlying issue (behind) what is happening and police have been tasked to look into it,” he said. He said church leaders were reaching out to Baker and his gang. “Through the churches, I have sent word that if they (had commited) an offence, to come out and police will go through the normal processes to deal with the offence,” he said. “Policing and churches activities are working to ensure Alotau and the province becomes peaceful again. “I appeal to the youths, Baker and his team to come forward.” Marape said he also asked police not to take any “hard approach” on Baker’s gang but a more “community-based approach”. Police in Alotau have also warned companies and people who will be refuelling drums, large containers and jerry cans at the fuel service stations in Alotau that officers will be monitoring the allocation of fuel. Those needing between 100 litres and 150 litres have to get a clearance from police. Police Commissioner David Manning has also submitted a request to Cabinet for K2.2 million to fund police operations in Alotau.