In the first 15 months as police minister, Bryan Kramer is not too pleased with his force. On the occasion of Papua New Guinea’s independence anniversary recently, the minister couldn’t help but lash out at the force he was called to lead.
Accusing it of drug smuggling, land theft, and gun-running, Kramer said the police force has turned out to be the most corrupt public agency in the country.
“I found our police force in complete disarray and riddled with corruption,” Kramer wrote online. “The very organisation that was tasked with fighting corruption had become the leading agency in acts of corruption. Add to that a rampant culture of police ill-discipline and brutality.
“Senior officers based in police headquarters in Port Moresby were stealing from their own retired officers’ pension funds. They were implicated in organised crime, drug syndicates, smuggling firearms, stealing fuel, insurance scams, and even misusing police allowances.
“They misused tens of millions of kina allocated for police housing, resources and welfare. We also uncovered many cases of senior officers facilitating the theft of police land,” said Kramer, who is also the MP for Madang Open and sole member of the Allegiance party he founded.
Described as one of the transparent ministers in the country, Kramer came to parliament in 2017 and played a major role in exposing a scandalous $1.2 billion loan involving Swiss bank UBS that eventually led to the resignation of the government of former prime minister Peter O’Neill.
James Marape succeeded O’Neill and placed Kramer at the police ministry in June 2019. In just a year and a few months in government, Kramer is disturbed about the extent of corruption in his country.
“It is so deep-rooted and so entrenched in every aspect of politics and business that it is almost beyond comprehension, and appears never-ending.
“The country was, and is, on the verge of collapse. Given the extent of the damage, it will take five years just to stop it from sinking further. It will take a generation to turn it around.”
What is even more worrying is that in the police force, those who complain about what they find unpalatable are dismissed, Kramer said, adding that major reforms are underway to weed out the bad nuts from the police hierarchy.
Kramer’s comments come on the back of a statement from the police commissioner, David Manning, that there are criminals in uniform in the police force.
PNG’s police force headquartered in Konedobu, a suburb of the capital city Port Moresby, has however had some operation challenges due to lack of funds, a recent report showed. The report also highlighted a severe shortage of police: a ratio of one officer to every 1,145 people while the UN recommends a ratio of one officer for every 450 people.
The police force also has a long track record of violence with impunity, according to Human Rights Watch. Last November, officers were captured violently beating three men on a street in Port Moresby. In 2018, two police officers were also captured on video beating a 15-year-old naked boy in Kimbe, West New Britain, while he pleaded with them to stop.
Four years before this incident, three dogs were set on a man outside Port Moresby by police officers.