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Old 05-07-2005, 09:26 PM
little little is offline
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gun summit day 2

The morning’s sessions were put back for a few hours so we could discuss the first day’s proceedings. That meant: more time for the various government security forces to respond to Alpers’ paper [see notes from day 1]. The paper made quite a splash. Word is that Singirok asked him to make it so; and that Singirok agrees with most of what he said. Whether the Commander is aware of this is unknown.


The Commissioner for Police – Sam Inguba – repeats that the police need more resources (and by implication gun problems would be under more control), but he is not as defensive as the Commander of the DF; Inguba is willing to listen. There’s been a lot of talk at the summit about leadership, and this man is one of very few who actually shows some good leadership through his actions: he brings a number of his staff along, so that they can contribute and also so that they can hear what is being said – by community members, politicians, academics, whoever – about the police. It’s important; more leaders, from more fields – but particularly the public service – should have done this.


Some interesting figures come from one of the Commissioner’s staff: the PNG police force is declining, from 5000 last year to around 4500-4800 (the number wasn’t clear). Which means that there is something like 1 police person for 1222 people in PNG.


There are 6 legal gun dealers in PNG, and 13 ammunition dealers. Since 2000, you have been unable to get a new gun licence; however, you can legally transfer a licence to a new person.

Of the 19 969 gun licences, only 2301 are current: 17 644 have expired.

What do the police do about expired licences? No one asks. (Instead the buck was passed: the cost of renewals was driven up by the people down in POM, people can’t afford it etc etc. Does this mean – as it sounds – that there are no ramifications if your licence expires?)

No figures on illegal, unlicensed guns in the country. No one talks about this.


Rumours about lack of ammo in PNG at the moment are not related to Australia, the Australian Defence Staff Kernel stresses. Australia is willing to supply ammo – as long as the Commissioner of Police signs off on it. Without the Commissioner’s signature, nothing can be moved. So if there’s a shortage, it’s because that’s the way PNG wants it.

The Commissioner looks a bit sheepish here; he did imply that it was Australia’s fault. [And the Kernel was pretty pissed off about that.] But it’s PNG’s decision, so if there is a shortage, it’s been decided on this end. Someone in police uniform makes a plea that ammo isn’t increased.


The RPNGC supports the ban of firearms – with a few exceptions (ie. sporting clubs; private security (must undergo compulsory training)).


Someone else reveals that of the PNGDF’s K72million budget, 82% was spent on salaries and remuneration. K8million was spent on the catering budget – and there you’ve got almost all your money gone. A pittance or nothing at all for housing, maintenance, uniforms – let alone equipment, technology etc. Hence the DF reforms. The first stage – downsizing (ie. sackings; staff numbers are now approx. 2000) – has saved about K10million.


The Australian Defence Staff (and presumably the PNGDF) went to Madang last week or the week before to discuss the Guns Control Recommendations. So … given that they’ve already been written and distributed, I’m not quite sure why we now have two days to discuss and review the Recommendations.


A RPNGC officer calls for compulsory national service.


Yesterday there was a call for tougher penalties for violent crimes – including introducing the death penalty. There was a big round of applause. Today Sir Arnold Amet clearly states that he is against the death penalty. It fails to deter criminals from committing crimes, he stresses; if a state introduces it as punishment, then that is their decision, but it fails as a deterrent. And he is against it.


Legislation for proposed DF changes are going to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday), so Commander of PNGDF will be back in Waigani for a briefing. Bit of a relief; he’s something of a renegade, unpredictable, at times arrogant with his power, and not always responsive to reason. And head of PNGDF…


Sir Arnold gets more time for another speech in the morning. Whilst he’s a bit of a statesman, I’m not sure we need another spiel from him today; yesterday was enough. He talks again about leadership: it’s rhetorical, it’s important, but not at this forum. We’re here to talk about how to control the widespread illegal small arms in PNG; we need straight talkers, and people talking from experience. Guns aren’t his area, and his talk is too much like a sermon for me, rather than a useful contribution. But others disagree; he does talk well.


Not all presentations are based on papers; the summit was convened in a rush, apparently. A lot of people speak generally to the audience, some forgetting their point and talking generally, which isn’t always useful; everyone’s got their own agendas to push. Visiting academics tend to have prepared more formal papers. Powerpoint is used frequently, and frequently badly.


After a break there’s a paper from Carol Nelson, another Small Arms Survey but on the Solomon Islands (http://www.smallarmssurvey.org). Interesting to learn about their attempts at gun buybacks (soon dropped: too expensive and number of home made guns increased) and then “gun free village” promotion, where whole village earns something (in SI = sporting equipment) if surrender all guns; positive peer pressure.


Nelson also brings up the point that the pacific needs to seriously clean up WWII ammunition. There’s one explosion a week from old, abandoned ammo in Honoraria alone. Beginning of conflicts in Bougainville and SI were fuelled with WWII weapons.


Peter Boyers (unsure of spelling), Finance Minister in SI, talks next and gives an explicit case of guns smuggling from SI waters into Bougainville. In the late 1990s a logging ship went from SI territory to Bougainville, carrying a huge stockpile of guns. 70 row boats were counted ferrying the arms from the ship to the shore. “This is a fact that can be proven” Boyers stated. It has not been made public before because the situations in both places were too volatile.


Dr Nicole Haley (Australian National Uni) presents her findings on guns in the Southern Highlands Province and the NCD. This work was also part of the Small Arms Survey. Some of the statistics she has are surprising and alarming, and they go against common preconceptions.

Whereas general consensus is that of course people would rather not have guns, Haley found that 34% of people in the SHP would buy a weapon if they could, and 41% in the NCD. There is not widespread support for removing weapons; only under very certain conditions, including the improvement of law and order. Only after that could it occur.

Whereas general consensus is that at the moment it’s hard to get hold of (illegal) ammo and therefore it’s expensive, she found that the price is lower than has been reported and that it is decreasing. NATO standard ammo is abundant.

And only 17% of households surveyed in the SHP had radios – and they were down the eastern end of the province; up in the western end there were few and usually none. And people in the western end reported actually seeing guns a lot more – almost daily – than compared with down east.

*Irrelevant Ausaid speech was given by someone clearly smart but just talking the talk: there wasn’t a sentence that wasn’t government jingoism, and it was all theoretical, there was nothing she did not glean from previous govt briefing papers. Only those in Canberra would have been interested, and only those in the audience with western educations could have understood it. If anyone had asked her a question, she would not have been able to answer. Doubtful many got anything from this one.


$$$. Forgot to mention this yesterday. It’s K50 rego for the week. Ok, but clearly not aimed at involving all members of the community. It’s a pity: every seat in the hall isn’t taken (70% full at a guess), and they could have subsidised regos for those who couldn’t afford the 50, or for people to bring their staff along (NGOs, say; villages; students etc etc.).

Instead, they are paying a per diem of K60 per day to all people invited to the conference. Why? (Haven’t heard of this before.) Seems ridiculous, particularly when people attending have jobs, and a lot are from organisations who would be giving them a per diem and away-from-home allowance anyway. Plus the Summit pays for invitees accommodation and airfares.

Today they gave out the daily per diem at the end of the final session. It was K80. People who were not invitees, but general attendees, were getting it. So in effect they’d got back their rego fee – plus an extra K30! What a joke. And that’s just today; if it continues for the next three days well hey there’s another K240. Each.


But just before I get too cynical and sour, must mention the best presentation of the day: from the group “Kup Women For Peace”. Kup is an area in Kerowagi, in Chimbu Province, where there’s been years and years of tribal fighting. It was so bad that schools closed down and all government services were withdrawn. At times women and children had to hide in fear in the bush. Gardens were destroyed, houses burned down. People killed. These were usual stories. People scattered, moving to other districts and areas. In 2000, women, sick and tired of being victimised, held a meeting and the group was started. They began to stand inbetween fighting tribes, refusing to move until the situation was defused. They now have uniforms and people recognise them when they step in – and they now have respect, people stop shooting, people even come to them when there are disputes. Now too it is not just women who are members of the group: men have joined to, ex-criminals. Life has improved: the government services are back; people can move freely in the villages. Now men are coming out and – in this patriarchal society – saying that they are willing for the women to lead; they want to live this more peaceful way. They are selling their guns out of Kup [note, not surrendering…]. The women have also organised for conflict resolution training for the police, and in August the police will have human rights training – also organised by the group. Last year they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Three women from the group each spoke, and two men held up a banner they had made. This is a group who are achieving things without any funding, without arms of their own, with no connection to Waigani or the public service or NGOs. The whole hall was moved; there was a lot of applause. This is what the summit was supposed to be full of: people talking from experience about concrete actions to take to reduce the prevalence of guns here.


They should have spoken yesterday, rather than the big fellas. But instead they were scheduled for this afternoon. And they were followed by two papers in defence of guns: representatives of rifle associations.

I thought it was poorly timed, but actually the women from Kup were so strong and so full of integrity, that it was like sabotage: the rifle association representatives sounded rather pitiful in comparison. Pitiful, and ridiculous.


Sir Arnol Amet’s appearance at the summit is a clear signal of support for Singirok. There’s plenty of recognition and applause for both Singirok and Kimisopa. I reckon some electioneering has begun with this summit.
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Old 08-07-2005, 10:34 AM
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Thumbs up Thanks for the commentary

Many thanks for keeping us posted on the gun summit.
Your commentary has been a pleasure to read.

Finally reading the small arms study certainly makes one cringe at the prospects of peace and stability in the next elections.

Whereever small arms have been made freely available the potential to use them in wanton destruction to life and property has almost always presided (south american and african countries).

The volatile mix of multiple factions, ideals, poor social and economic climate and small arms will undoubtedly explode in carnage unless steps are taken now to 'defuse' the situation.
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