The possible engagement of private military contractors from the United States could cost the Papua New Guinea Government several millions of Kina if the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary finalizes a 5-month security training arrangement as a lead up to APEC 2018.
In recent days, word of armed contractors on Port Moresby streets triggered widespread concerns that Papua New Guinea could see of a repeat of the Sandline Crisis of 1997.
Those concerns were heightened after fully armed members were seen in various parts of the capital, Port Moresby, carrying assault weapons and side-arms.
Various inquiries this morning revealed that the contractors came from Lawrence Aviation and Security (LAS) – a US based company that supplies training and personal to various clients including governments.
Members of the company are former military and law enforcement.
It is understood, discussions between with LAS and the RPNGC began five months ago following an approach by PNG-born company President, Peter Halliman, who had served in in the US military.
Police Commissioner, Gary Baki, said this afternoon, the engagement is part of a strategy by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary to train an elite rapid response team for APEC 2018 and that the PNGDF is aware of the arrangement.
“I invited Laurence Aviation & Security Group to come to PNG in February this year to do a presentation for the senior police hierarchy on what they can offer to the RPNGC in terms of training.
“Other government departments were invited to attend the presentation including the PNG Defence Force, the Correctional Services and PNG Customs.
“As a matter of formality I wrote to the United States Embassy informing the embassy of the RPNGC’s intentions.
According to Commissioner Baki, the team expected to be trained by the LAS contractors consist of 120 men drawn from within the RPNGC and sister agencies. They include:
- 30 from the RPNGC’s Air Tactical Unit;
- 30 selected from the Mobile Squads throughout PNG;
- 30 members of the NCD Task Force; and
- 30 composite team comprising of five from the Police College, five from PNG Customs, ten from the PNG Correctional Service and 10 from the PNG Defence Force.
This is the second time Papua New Guinea’s state agencies have entered into discussions with private military contractors.
In 1997, PNG Defence Force Commander, Jerry Singirok, led an operation that expelled mercenaries from Sandline International who were hired by the Chan Government to “end the Bougainville War.”
Today, retired Major General Jerry Singirok said the rules of engagement need to be clarified by the Police Commissioner.
“My big concern is that the presence of such people who are not identified with the police or defense force is very suspicious and warrants an investigation into their presence,” Singirok said.