Number Four: 18 June 2002
Guns, Logs and the Election.
On Friday June 14, the Post Courier reported that many candidates have provided people with weaponry ranging from ‘AK47s, M16, M202 and SLRs’.
The Prime Minister himself has admitted that it is ‘an open secret’ that guns are being freely smuggled by politicians in the Highlands region and other provinces (Post Courier, May 24).
The business community in the Provincial Capital Mendi is so worried by the situation that they have called for the army to be deployed during the election period and they have sent a petition to the Prime Minister (The National, June 13th).
Meanwhile some areas of the Highlands have been declared ‘no fly zones’ because of the threat of aircraft being shot down as a result of candidates stockpiling weapons for use during the election (Post Courier, June 14th).
According to the Tari Police Force, many of these weapons are new – they are not ex-PNG Defense Force, and are unlikely to have been sourced from Australia given the recent tightening of the cross-border arms trade. Where are they coming from?
Earlier this year Acting Police Commander in North Fly, Senior Inspector Hariba Mamaea claimed that people are travelling from the highlands through Nomad River to the Concord Pacific Binge log camp to trade for high-powered firearms (Independent, January 3rd). He went on to state that the guns are being brought up the Fly River on empty log barges. Since then there have been several unofficial reports of politicians flying into these logging camps to acquire firearms.
The link between illegal logging and the trade in high-powered weaponry now demands attention.