News Release: 20th February 2024

Commissioner of Police, David Manning, has met with police commanders and local leaders and administrators in Enga Province to review the current security response following tribal fighting on the weekend.

Commissioner Manning and the Enga Provincial Administrator, Tsandis Tsaka, received operational briefings from Provincial Police Commander Superintendent George Kakas and Wabag Police Station Commander, Inspector Patrick Peka, as well as the Director of Enga Law and Order Committee, Nelson Leia.

The Commissioner also viewed the fighting area where the recent clash took place, and proximity to related villages that have been part of the ongoing conflict.

“The situation on the ground has returned to relative normalcy with no renewed fighting, however we are not dropping our guard,” the Commissioner said.

“We have had the opportunity to review operational plans for enhancing security engagement in Enga and this is what you could call peace enforcement operation.

“I have also appointed all PNGDF members deployed to Enga, Hela and SHP as Special Constables. This gives soldiers the power and protection they need to do their jobs, including the authority to make arrests and where required, to discharge their weapons to save innocent lives and people’s property.

“Any further attempt to cause trouble it will be dealt with harshly, and any tribesman who raises a weapon will more than likely be shot by security forces.

“The acts of barbaric violence that took place over those hours on Sunday disgusts the nation and they demand a hard response.

“It is also clear that those killed and the bodies recovered by police were not innocent bystanders, but were hired guns who kill for money.

“There is no sorrow for a domestic terrorist who gets killed and our concern is for the welfare of the innocent who just want to like a safe life.”

“Police can confirm that 49 bodies have been recovered at this point, 37 were recovered on Sunday and a further 12 on Monday.

“It is possible that additional bodies will be found as police continue to search the area.

“Police and local officials continue to engage with community leaders to quieten lingering tension.

“Preventing further tension is a challenge when you consider the generations of fighting that have gone on between these tribes, but we are having success.

“This is where local leaders are key to preventing any further flareups of violence.”

Commissioner Manning said he cannot state enough the importance of community leaders working with police to prevent further violence and identify the individuals behind the violence.

“These ethnic fights stem from wicked people who in the end cause the deaths of their own people when they stir up a fight.

“While I recognise it is hard because there are threats and intimidation involved, but community leaders have to step up work with police to identify the ringleaders.

“This is a partnership between police and communities and when community leaders provide information we can act on it and go after the culprits and bring them down.

“I have also received reports of extraordinary bravery from Wabag security personnel who placed their own lives at risk to bring an end to hostilities on Sunday. They did what they were trained to do and served with distinction, and I commend them.”

As part of the discussions at the provincial level, the Commissioner said there was important discussion on the need for the Domestic Terrorism legislation that is due before Parliament.

“The Police Minister has been clear that we must move forward with the Domestic Terrorism Act that is an urgent legislative reform.

“This legislation will criminalise acts of Domestic Terrorism, the financing and incitement of domestic terrorists, and provide police with enhanced surveillance.

“The Act will also provide for the establishment of Special Policing Zone to cover Enga, Hela and SHP.

“In Enga we further discussed the spread of illegal weapons in the province, and the view from the ground on increased measures we can deploy to intercept the traffickers.” Commissioner Manning will update the Prime Minister and the Minister for Police upon his return to Port Moresby.