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Morauta and Singirok Question Engagement of Private Military Contractors

Image Source: Royal Papua New Guinea Constabularymedia Release, Monday May 15, 2017

Former Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, and former PNG Defence Force commander, Jerry Singirok, have issued separate statements questioning the engagement of private military contractors.

The presence of three of their members in Port Moresby alarmed many residents after they were seen carrying assault rifles and side-arms.

According to the Police Commissioner, Gary Baki, he invited them to develop a training package for the Royal PNG Constabulary.

However, Sir Mekere and Mr. Singirok say their rules of engagement have not been made clear and the timing is suspicious.

These are the pictures that fuelled widespread concerns among Papua New Guineans on Social media – foreign private military contractors carrying assault weapons on the streets Port Moresby.

Papua New Guineans born before the 1990s had good reason to be alarmed. This is the second time that foreign contractors have been brought in by the National government, or an arm of government.

After releasing a three page explanation late yesterday, Commissioner Gary Baki followed up with a news conference explaining the presence of the armed men.

Laurence Aviation and Security Group is run by a group of ex- military and ex law-enforcement.

The PNG Connection is through the Company President, Peter Halliman, who was born in Bulolo in the 1960s to missionary parents and raised in the Hela province.

Halliman is fluent in Tok Pisin and in at least one local Hela dialect.

While the RPNGC has stated that Halliman has military background, web references make no mention of it. However, his missionary work in Papua New Guinea and Malawi feature prominently.

Until yesterday, little was known publicly about the purpose of the company.

Baki says under the arrangement, 130 personnel from the Police, Defense Force, Customs and CS will be trained in counter terrorism methods.

But just the engagement of the a private contractor by government, triggered memories of 1997 when riots broke out in Port Moresby and other centres. This was followed by the expulsion of Sandline mercenaries brought in to [quote] end the Bougainville War.

Yesterday, the man who led the expulsion of the illegal force, retired Major General Jerry Singirok, said the rules of engagement for the contractors had to be clearly stated.

The PNGDF meanwhile, already has ongoing training with the US military and the Australian Defense Force in preparation for APEC 2018, and many see this arrangement as a duplication of the roles and one that could cost the government millions more in taxpayer spending.

According to the Police Commissioner, a final agreement has not yet been drafted.

And while the contractors supposedly had authorisation from Mr. Baki to carry out assessments in preparation for that contract, it is not clear if their rounds with the National Capital District police last week were legal and had written legal consent.

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