by Mickey Kavera – EM TV, Port Moresby
The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) held its final commanders parade for 2014 today at its Murray Barracks headquarters in Port Moresby.
The event was witnessed by the heads of other disciplinary forces, members of the diplomatic corps and the public. The parade is the time during which the commander highlights the progress of the PNGDF for this year, as well as his intentions for next year.
Earlier this year, Commander Brigadier General, Gilbert Toropo took office from his predecessor, the retired Brigadier General and current Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to New Zealand, Francis Agwi.
Over the past 10 months in office, Commander Toropo has worked to revitalise the force. He however said that there are many existing prevalent issues that must be adequately addressed.
Two main issues featuring prominently in his efforts to bring about desired changes to the force are force capacity issues and force capability issues.
In terms of force capacity issues, the PNGDF has experienced a sharp declined in its manpower in effectively carrying out its constitutional duties. The decline is partly due to the government-sanctioned retrenchment exercise, as well as normal aging and discharged processes upon reaching the compulsory retirement age.
Commander Toropo said the PNGDF does not have the capacity or resources to allow for the retention and recruitment of personnel to fill up increasing vacancies and widening experience gaps. This has resulted in the PNGDF’s inability to maintain high levels of efficiency and effectiveness in their performance with the existing manpower and significant loss of skills and experience.
The PNGDF’s force capability is facing similar problems. The PNGDF’s three operational elements of air, land and maritime have all suffered due to resource constraints and lack of government intervention.
“We are handicapped; we cannot discharge our men when our capacity and capability is undermined,” Commander Toropo said.
Despite these changes, the PNGDF is expected to fulfil its mandated duties as stipulated in the Constitution. Among the many changes to be undertaken next year, a new concept to eradicate ill-discipline will be introduce into the force.
It will be known as the Company of Excellence Concept and will involve the Delta Company from the Moem Barracks in Wewak and Charlie Company from Taurama in Port Moresby. The concept targets new recruits coming out of the Goldie River Training Department.
“New recruits coming out from training have been passed on with some bad habits. They will now go into these newly formed companies to be mentored by the respective commanders to instil good discipline and leadership skills; eventually, we plan to eradicate ill-discipline in the force,” Commander Toropo announced.
All these changes depend entirely on funding from the government and the K262 million for 2015 is not enough to implement these changes.
“But we are confident, the money will be prioritised on a phase-by-phase basis to ensure all our objectives are achieved,” Commander Toropo said.
Training still remains PNGDF’s top priority as it strives to achieve its ceiling of 5,000 soldiers by 2017.
This year, the PNGDF recruited 450 new recruits. This is in preparation for the 2015 Pacific Games and the 2018 APEC Summit.
“I am confident we will deliver, despite the challenges we faced and I encourage you all to strive for successin your line of duty,” he said.