JAMES APA GUMUNO
THREE prisoners received gunshot wounds and a warder received a deep cut to his face during a mass breakout attempt by more than 500 prisoners at Baisu jail in Western Highlands province yesterday.
One remandee received pellet wounds to his left leg while two prisoners received pellet wounds to their faces while trying to escape.
The refusal by Correctional Services (CS) headquarters to pay food rations supplier Whisky Fresh Ltd caused the company to halt supplies, leading to prisoners going hungry since last Thursday.
About 550 prisoners scaled the security fence around 2pm and came out and attacked a CS officer.
But quick action by the warders, who also called in police reinforcements, ensured that none of the prisoners escaped.
The prisoners were returned to the main compound, but refused to go back into their individual cell blocks. They demanded to be fed before they returned to their cells.
The incident was a repeat of a similar incident last month, when about 500 prisoners broke out but were returned to the prison compound.
They were angry over not being fed.
A jail official said the prisoners were fed biscuits and tinned meat since last Thursday, and frustration was building up.
The CS officers in Baisu blamed their boss, Commissioner Richard Sikani, for the breakout because of the prolonged delays in paying the local contractor to supply monthly food rations to the jail.
A source at the CS headquarters said yesterday afternoon that cheques for Whisky Fresh were released yesterday.
A source at Baisu jail said the last 10 cartons of biscuits in the storeroom were shared among the prisoners yesterday morning for breakfast.
The prisoners, however, went without lunch.
In the afternoon around 2pm, 10 20kg bags of rice were brought to the jail. This is enough for a day’s meal.
Whisky Fresh Ltd managing director Barry Maip said he felt sorry for the prisoners but blamed the situation squarely on Mr Sikani.
“This (prisoner revolt) wouldn’t happen if Mr Sikani kept his hands out of us doing our job,” Mr Maip said.
He said he would try to restore supply to the prison today.
Metropolitan commander Chief Insp Peter Roari commended his policemen for responding quickly and preventing the prisoners from escaping.
He said it took 10 minutes for the Mt Hagen police to arrive in Baisu and stop the prisoners from escaping.