WNB Provincial Administration keen on counter-funding CS and Police projects in the province after OC intervention

West New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel and some members of the provincial government met with the Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen and a team of officers from the Ombudsman Commission on January 5th 2022 and have given an undertaking to help fund certain projects for Correction Services and Police institutions in the province to address issues such as overcrowding, deteriorating infrastructure and several issues which concerns the welfare of Police and CS officers.

Mr Pagen and his team visited the province after receiving complaints of the deteriorating conditions of police holding cells, police stations and the deteriorating and overpopulated police staff houses.

During the visit Mr Pagen paid a visit to the Police Station and the police holding cell and noted that the facility was too small and was over crowded.  It was noted that the holding facility had reached its holding capacity of 20 and had gone up by over 100 per cent.

This in turn has given rise to human rights issues for suspects where there is a need for police to ensure that every suspect is charged within the lawful time and advance their case.  

 The Ombudsman Commission noted that there was a need for the Police, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the Office of the Public Solicitor and the Correction Services to work together in a more efficient manner to ensure they expedited hearing of the cases involving the inmates, especially those on parole and remand to prevent overcrowding.

Adding to those issues was the shortage of police personnel in the province.

Governor Muthuvel stated that they needed more police personnel on the ground to address law and order issues as the province is a major economic hub and sometimes law and order gets out of hand.

He said the ceiling for the province is 200 personnel; however, currently there are only 123 police personnel in the province with most of them stationed at Kimbe town.

Mr Muthuvel said the provincial government however, has gone ahead and taken steps to address some of these issues and have initiated the following in liaison with Police and CS:

  • Building of 20 new houses for police accommodation.
  • Repair and maintenance of the Provincial Police Commander’s office which had its roof blown off by strong wind. The Police headquarters allocated a mere K16,000 for the repair and maintenance which wasn’t sufficient so the provincial government decided to take full responsibility of the job.
  • Completed a duplex building for two families at the Buluma Police Station
  • Building of a Covid testing facility at the Lakiemata jail.
  • The refurbishing of the PPCs house while the PPC relocates to one of the houses owned by the West New Britain Business Trust.
  • Refurbishment of the CID wing

Mr Muthuvel said that the only thing they could not maintain were the police lock-ups and jail because these facilities abide by certain building requirements which will come from the Police and CS. However they are ready to counter-fund any development in that area.

The governor added that they also have plans to relocate 34 police houses at the back of the Kimbe General Hospital who will be displaced due to the building of a new referral hospital for the New Guinea Islands region.

The provincial administration is yet to receive word from either the Police hierarchy or the National Health Department on what they plan to do with the houses but Mr Muthuvel said they are also willing to counter-fund the relocation of all 34 houses to a new location already identified.

He said the biggest challenge was trying to coordinate with the Police Department to establish projects in the province as most of the time the force often initiated projects within the province without the PEC knowledge. The CS in the province have also asked the provincial government with only one vehicle to assist their operations.

The Ombudsman Commission is pleased with the undertaking of the provincial government and commended them for their efforts to address law and order in the province.

The approach the commission has taken is a new one aimed at amicably resolving issues as such with leaders of each province especially the Members of the Parliament to allocate funding from the respective PSIP and DSIP funds to fund and counter-fund some of these projects to address the issues at hand.

The approach 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 Kavieng regarding similar issues.

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