Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen is positive that Members of Parliament in New Ireland province will help to address issues facing the Police and Correction Services in the province by using some of their PSIP and DSIP funds earmarked for law and order.
Mr Pagen said this after meeting with Member for Kavieng Ian Ling Stuckey and Governor Sir Julius Chan on a one-day visit to the province to discuss and resolve the following issues:
- Over-crowding of the provincial jail which now houses more than 400 inmates which is double its capacity of only 250 people.
- Inadequate staff housing which has seen more than 10 married couples all bunked up together in a single male barracks
- Possible human rights abuses as the police lock ups do not have room for females and juveniles as well as overcrowding as numbers go above and beyond the allowed 20.
- It was also brought to the attention of the Ombudsman Commission that a 14-men single male barracks was condemned and it resulted in the province losing all 14 men who opted to leave the province because of lack of accommodation. This has significantly affected police man power in the province.
The above issues were complaints that the Commission gathered from Kavieng during a public education programme in the province in 2021.
The approach the Ombudsman Commission has taken is pursuant to Section 218 (b) of the Constitution which gives the Commission the mandate to ensure that Government Services are delivered and unfair practices are eliminated. The Ombudsman Commission also visited other New Guinea Island (NGI) provinces of Manus and West New Britain regarding similar issues.
Mr Pagen stated that law and order is a priority and national institutions like Police and CS were custodians of law and order. It was important that they were well looked after.
He said that although they are national institutions, they are local service providers and they should qualify for funding under the law and order component of the DSIP and PSIP.
Mr Ling Stuckey and Sir Julius separately expressed gratitude to the Chief Ombudsman for visiting the province while Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt sent his apologies as he was out of the country.
Mr Ling-Stuckey acknowledged the issues brought to their attention and said allocating funds to address the issues was not an issue; however he wanted to firstly know what the National Government allocation to the province for CS and Police was and then decide how much they could counter-fund some of the projects to address the issues raised.
Sir Julius during a separate meeting said they already had plans in place for the two institutions including relocating the Kavieng Prison to Kaut and moving the Police Barracks to the where the current CS facilities are, but they are willing to work with the Ombudsman Commission to address the issues currently at hand.
Mr Pagen thanked the two leaders for their responses and added that the overcrowding issue will involve effort from other government agencies such as Department of Justice and Attorney General, Public Prosecutor and Public Solicitor to assist in clearing up the back log of prisoners who are qualified for parole and also the Police should ensure that suspects are processed and expedited in the time required by law to avoid overcrowding in cells.