Treading a path of violence

Editorial, Normal

The National – Friday, June 24, 2011

THE recent spate of violent crimes, and clashes, some of which resulted in deaths over the last month has left many in urban centres and indeed throughout the country in a state of fear, apprehension, and unease. 
The wanton destruction of property and the injuring and maiming of, in many instances, innocent individuals is so common place these days that the shock of such incidents is quickly dissipating from public consciousness. It has become the norm, a way of life, if you like.
Dare we say it, we are living in a state fear but sadly also viewing such a state with indifference and apathy.
In one of the freest societies on the planet, we are literally suffocating where no one is truly free: to coexist, and conduct their business without the need to constantly look over one’s shoulder at every turn.
Central among the reasons for this decline in living a relatively tranquil, harmonious and peaceful existence is the absence of the law and law enforcement. There are many areas in the country where the law of the land is literally what those who have the arms say it is or what the numbers say it is.
We have, without doubt, one of the most ill-equipped, undermanned and overworked police forces in the region and, perhaps, the world.
Successive governments have paid this area of public service little to no real thought.
Many times the police are required to appeal to the public and communities for the apprehension of suspects in crimes.
They are in effect getting the public to do their job because, in reality, they are not funded or trained or are logistically incapable of keeping the peace and bringing to justice all who break the law.
Sometimes, they are just not willing to do their jobs.
Another by-product of this poor state of affairs in the police force – and many individuals can attest to this – is the violent means which some frustrated and poorly trained police personnel revert to in order to intimidate and extort information, testimonies, evidence and so on the pretext of doing their jobs.
Some have been known to treat the public with contempt or even for their own amusement.
This is hardly the advertisement for the type of police force Papua New Guineans can feel confident in and trust. The killings in the highlands and the nation’s capital in recent weeks demonstrates a depressing lack of respect, not only for human life, but for the laws of the country which are there to regulate and control anti-social behaviour.
Apparently, no one in authority is able or willing to make the hard decisions necessary to stamp out and put an end to the brazen attitude exhibited by an albeit minority of malcontents. These groups have a mob rules mentality and wield violence as a bargaining tool for disputes and as a problem solver.
PNG is faced with a truly great opportunity to make developmental strides never before seen in terms of improving its standard of living and increasing its economic and political power in the Asia Pacific region, however, the danger which could derail such high hopes remains law and order.
Take a moment to consider how much more rapid the country’s development and progress would be if law and order were not an issue. It is not beyond of the realms of possibility to envision this nation standing on equal terms with other powerbrokers of the region.
The rate of development could be almost exponential when one takes into consideration the abundant, almost ridiculous, amounts of natural (renewable and non-renewable) resources this country has to offer.
Our problem has always been a matter of will, a strong will to get the job done and see through the completion of a workable and mutually beneficial plan.
The police force has perhaps one of the biggest and most pressing tasks in helping the country realise its potential, particularly in the short term of this natural resource and hence economic boom. It would be remiss of them to deflect blame and constructive criticism on why the law and order situation in this country has gotten out of hand and continues to stay that way.
Law and order can very easily send all the glowing opportunities facing PNG crumbling to dust if it is allowed to spiral out of control.
We fear that is truly the direction PNG is heading.