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Papua New Guinea - Military Doctrine

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) is responsible for maintaining internal security in all regions of the country. The RPNGC commissioner reports to the minister for police. The Autonomous Region of Bougainville maintains its own police force and minister of police with authority to enforce local law, but the RPNGC retains authority over the Bougainville police in enforcement of national law.

PNG and Australia share a close and longstanding Defense relationship. Defense cooperation between the two countries has grown significantly in recent years, based on recognition that security is enhanced by the effectiveness of the two nations successfully working together. This stems from the 55 years it spent as a trust territory under Australian administration until independence in 1975.

Internal Security

Clan rivalries and a serious lack of resources diminished police effectiveness and hampered internal security activities throughout the country. Societal violence, particularly among tribes, was commonplace, and in many cases police lacked sufficient personnel or resources to prevent attacks or respond effectively to them. Warring tribal factions in rural areas often were better armed than local police, and authorities often tolerated intertribal violence in isolated rural areas until the tribes themselves agreed to a negotiated settlement. The Australian Federal Police provided assistance to the RPNGC to improve its professional capacity. This included human rights training.

PNG is one of many nations experiencing fast-growing populations and youth bulges, coupled with high levels of unemployment and poverty gravitating around urban centers. These obstacles encumber the consequential practice of effective governance, creating well-documented instances of escalating crime, corruption and violence. Unfortunately, the DoD/PNGDF are not immune to these influences and as such, often subject to similar pressures in a departmental/defence context.

The PNGDF has a constitutional responsibility to contribute to Nation-Building, however, this assistance is restricted to applying military skills and capabilities developed to perform core security operations. In other words, support to Nation Building is an important Government task, but it is not a force determinant from a structure or capability development perspective.

The Defence Force, when provided civic action funding, is to be able to provide Nation-Building options to Government ranging from infrastructure development to medical support in remote rural and island communities. Nation building tasks provide Defence the opportunity to promote National Government standing and legitimacy in remote rural regions with relatively low levels of public expenditure in either infrastructure or service delivery. Military civic action, when delivered professionally and strategically, is often cited as an effective way to promote acceptance by recipient communities of National Government legitimacy and authority for the maintenance of public order. Proactive civic action projects which contribute to the maintenance of public order and social wellbeing of potentially disaffected communities, is one of the Military Options provided by the PNGDF for Government to employ during the current phase of National Development.

As with nation building support tasks, the PNGDF is able to provide a range of support options to the Government in the event of a national disaster. PNG is seismically very active and a series of serious volcanic and tsunami events have led to significant loss of life and internal displacement in the decades since PNGs Independence.

The PNGDF, when provided supplementary or civic action funding, can provide trained, disciplined manpower to undertake a wide variety of tasks as directed. The ability of Defence to undertake such duties is restricted to existing military skill sets and in-service equipment. Disaster relief activities require appropriate national and provincial Government legal and resource coordination mechanisms, as well as sound planning and logistical support processes. A recent example is the 2005 Manam Disaster in which Defence supported the restoration of water and sanitation services and provided limited Navy Patrol boat transport services to displaced residents.

During a twelve-day visit to the country in 2014, Christof Heyns, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, examined the level of unlawful killings in Papua New Guinea, as well as efforts to prevent them and ensure justice and redress in such cases. There are high levels of violence in Papua New Guinea. During my visit, I was informed about various types of killings perpetrated in Papua New Guinea, such as killings related to accusations of sorcery or witchcraft, domestic violence, and killings during tribal fighting, but also the lethal consequences of the excessive use of force by the police and sometimes private security forces, noted the expert.

Border Security

PNG has a generally benign external security environment, though not without some challenges. The principal issues for PNGs external security have been in three main areas: the border with Indonesia to the west; the border with the Solomon Islands to the east; and incursions by foreign fishing vessels in PNGs territorial waters.

PNG shares a 720km land border with the Indonesian provinces of West Papua and Papua (formerly the single province of Irian Jaya). Papuan nationalists, led by the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM, Free Papua Movement) and more recently the Komite Nasional Papua Barat (KNPB, West Papua National Committee), have maintained a continuing campaign for West Papuan separatism and a review of the 1969 so-called Act of Free Choice (in fact, an act of no choice, conducted in the presence of a UN special representative), by which West Papua moved from a UN Temporary Executive Authority to incorporation within the Indonesian Republic.

The PNGDF provides a frontline response to minor territorial incursions, resource poaching, acts of terrorism, drug running, illegal arms imports, and other infringements of sovereignty that are beyond the capacity of the police and border authorities.

In the early 1970s, there was significant sympathy among PNGs emerging leaders for the separatist ambitions of their Melanesian brothers in the former Dutch territory. However, PNG recognized Indonesian sovereignty in West Papua after 1969 (as did Australia) and within its capacity sought to deny the OPM access to PNG. Despite this, OPM camps were set up in the dense jungle on PNGs side of the border, which was a source of some tension in relations between Indonesia and PNG.

Regular crackdowns on West Papuan groups by Indonesia led to frequent border crossings by OPM supporters and ordinary villagers, and occasional incursions by Indonesian soldiers. In 1984, 10,000 border crossers sought refuge in PNG after the Indonesia military acted against Papuan nationalists who had sought to raise the West Papuan flag. The Indonesian military made unauthorized border incursions in pursuit of alleged OPM supporters who sought refuge in PNG. In an escalation of tensions, PNG took its grievances to the UN General Assembly.

By the late 1980s, relations between the two countries had improved and the two had signed a Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Cooperation. However, the border remains a continuing irritant in PNG-Indonesia relations.

West Papuan separatism has not gone away. The erosion of concessions made by the Indonesian Government to West Papuans after the demise of President Suharto, continued immigration from other parts of Indonesia, and sustained military repression and human rights abuses in West Papua have fueled Papuan nationalist sentiments and separatist demands and create a vicious cycle of repression and confrontation. PNG has resisted Indonesian proposals for joint border patrols, and with the Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF)s capacity to patrol the border limited by its resources, the potential for future border incidents is high.

In the east, a similarly arbitrary colonial boundary separates PNG from the Solomon Islands, although there has been continuing traditional movement across the island chain. During the Bougainville rebellion, members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army regularly crossed into the Solomon Islands (for some time with the effective blessing of the Solomon Islands Government) to escape the PNGDF, and weapons and medicines were imported into Bougainville through the Solomon Islands.

In a mirror image of what was happening on PNGs western border, on more than one occasion PNGDF soldiers crossed illegally into the Solomon Islands (in one instance attempting to annex a small island in the Solomon Islands territory), drawing complaints from successive Solomon Islands governments. Since the end of the Bougainville conflict, this issue has largely disappeared, although the reported continuing flow of weapons into PNG through the Solomon Islands still poses security concerns.

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