The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary made its stance known to push for the reintroduction of the Vagrancy Act in Papua New Guinea to help tackle rising crime rates, and have other laws toughened up. A joint media conference by the Police Minister and the Commissioner of Police held earlier today agreed for the Act to be re-looked at again as the freedom of movement, especially by unemployed youths, must be stopped as it has contributed to the increasing law and order problems in the country.
Although the push for the Vagrancy Act was rejected by the previous government in 2015, there are certain tweaks that can be done around other existing provisions and laws, for penalties to be applied with regards to issues concerning urban drift and its rippling effects of crime in the city.
Police Minister, Bryan Kramer, highlighted this stating that the gathering and movement of groups of people must be controlled, and the act is designed to stop the unnecessary movement of people between provinces in a bid to cut crime.
“Yesterday the Prime Minister raised the question of reintroducing the Vagrancy Act as did our Acting Commissioner. This has been a contentious issue on the basis of restricting, whether provisions of the Vagrancy Act impeach on citizen’s rights under the constitution of freedom of movement…I think that issue was challenged sometime ago…and obviously considered to be unconstitutional. But there are existing provisions within the law that police, the judiciary and the Government can consider as an immediate intervention.”
Stating that in the meantime, the constabulary is in close consultation and dialogue with the current government for ways forward using a non-lethal engagement approach to curb illegal public outcries and disruptions in the city.
“The constabulary is also, with the Ministry is discussing and the Government is to look at non-lethal rules of engagement. Police unlike in the past is going to take a pro-active approach to looking at non-lethal rules of engagement in terms of the application of tear gas, tasers and other latest technology that other countries do use to address, in terms of riots and in terms of addressing public unrest.
Expressing similar sentiments was Acting Commissioner for Police, David Manning who stated that the Vagrancy Act needs to be brought into effect again, while asking for it to be addressed in the Parliament session in October; affirming that if anything, it is to deescalate the current situation of crime in the city.
A directive given by the NCD/Central Commander, Anthony Wagambie Jnr for immediate course of action is for police to continue with the sector patrols and move within communities that are less volatile; adding that the ratio manpower for police is 1 to every 1000 citizens, and there is no protection for police by law to do their jobs properly without defending themselves from the public.
“To avoid instances where our members get injured or killed and where the members of public also get injured or killed in any confrontation, we will avoid that – we will operate in communities where we are accepted,” he stated.
It goes without saying that the onus now falls with the government of the day, whether to fully support the idea of reintroducing the Vagrancy Act, and its plans to address it in the next parliament sitting.
By Annette Kora – EMTV News, Port Moresby