Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF)

Papua New Guineas only regular force, the Pacific Islands Regiment, continued to be controlled from Australia until 1975. After World War Two it continued to be officered by Australians and the Regiment remained on the Australian Army order of battle. In 1965 PNG was reorganised as Papua New Guinea Command. In January 1973 PNGs defence establishment was designated as the PNG Defence Force but continued to be administered from Australia until the countrys independence in 1975.

The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) originated from the Australian Army land forces of the Territory of Papua New Guinea that were part of the Pacific Island Regiment before independence, and was officially formed in January 1973.

The Functions of the Department of Defence as stipulated under Section 5 (a) of the Defence Act, although not clearly defined, except to state that they run in conjunction with the provisions of the Public Services (Management) Act dealing with formulation and implementation of Government policies, provision of efficient administration to the Defence Force and the accounting for and control of all public money legally appropriated for the purpose of defence administration, there are several high source documents which provide indications of what is expected of the Department and its Head. These documents include the Constitution, the Public Service (Management) Act and the Public Finance (Management) Act.

While the force is tasked to protect PNG from external attacks and perform secondary functions of nation-building and internal security, its current capability is considered modest. The army faces significant financial management challenges, lack of experienced personnel and has limited capacity to deploy independently overseas. It also faces internal tensions that emerge occasionally. The air force and navy also suffer from major equipment needs and limited funding. Both services are considered small and poorly equipped to participate in overseas operations.

The Department of Defence by nature of its establishment plays a very important role in the development of the PNG Defence Force. It is important that the Department of Defence takes its position within the Defence Organisation to ensure that the PNGDF is well equipped and trained.

Functions of the Department of Defence as stipulated under Section 5 (a) of the Defence Act, although not clearly defined, except to state that they run in conjunction with the provisions of the Public Service (Management) Act dealing with formulation and implementation of Government policies, provision of efficient administration to the Defence Force and the accounting for and control of all public money legally appropriated for the purpose of defence administration. There are several high sources documents which provide indications of what is expected of the Department and its Head. These documents include the Constitution, the Public Service (Management) Act and the Public Finance (Management) Act.

The amendment to Section 190 of the Constitution, which authorised the enactment by Parliament of the Public Service (Management) Act 1986 and its subsequent amendments of 1995 and 1998, superimposed the establishment and existence of the Department of Defence as stipulated under Section 5 of the Defence Act.

The Defence Act 1974, the Manual of Personal Administration and the other subordinate Regulations, provide the framework for the Command and Control and the Administration of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and its personnel. The civilian personnel of the Department are administered under the Public Service (Management) Act in line with Section 20 of the Act, which authorises the Department of Personnel Management to make provisions for Public Sector management, specifically as it relates to performance, human resources, and organisation management.

Other legislations that indicate some level of involvement of the Defence Force in the performance of their roles and functions and therefore the DoD, include the National Emergency Disaster Act, the National Surveillance Act, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Act, and the National Fisheries Act, among others.

The role of the PNGDF is undergoing significant change as the force tries to become more relevant, effective and professional. Terrorism is a concern for PNG since the 11 September 2001 attacks and several bombings in the region. Headquarters PNGDF is in direct command of all elements of the Defence Force including the Army, the Air Transport Wing, and two naval bases. The PNGDF is under the administrative control and political oversight of the Minister of Defence. The PNGDF has no ability to deploy overseas independently, has had limited success in recent internal security operations, suffers from bouts of poor morale due to failures in administration, and on occasion has diverged significantly from political authority.

The Defence Cooperation Program between Australia and PNG is Australias main mechanism to support the PNG Department of Defence (DoD) and PNGDFs aspiration to be the best small-nation Defence Force in the world and to be a highly respected and professional regional security partner to Australia. The DoD/PNGDF are complex and challenging regional partners, particularly noting the intrinsic socio-economic pressures that dominate much of the South Pacific.

The ADF assisted with the conduct of the 2012 PNG national elections through Operation CATHEDRAL. This logistics support mission helped the PNG Electoral Commission with the transport of officials and equipment across PNG. The ADF also moved the PNGDF and RPNGC in support of PNG election security efforts. At the height of the deployment there were approximately 250 Australian and NZ Defence Forces personnel in PNG.

PNG is one of many nations experiencing fast-growing populations and youth bulges, coupled with high levels of unemployment and poverty gravitating around urban centres. 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.

Papua New Guinea, with a population of six million, has a history of political and military unrest. An army mutiny in 1997 overthrew the government after it employed mercenaries to try and end a long-running secessionist rebellion on the island of Bougainville.

A coup is defined as an illegal and overt attempt by the military or other elites within the state to unseat the existing regime. PNG gained its independence from Australia through negotiated transition rather than armed struggle and for this reason it is suggested that the civilian population is unlikely to accept being ruled by a military-led government. The small size of the military, logistical issues, geographical and ethnic diversity of tribes in highland, lowlands and coastal regions are factors that can create difficulties in building a strong national identity around a particular military figure.

There is a difference between mobilising for a coup led by military officers and a coup dtat lead by civilian elements of the state. Social factors are not sufficient to support a civilian-led coup. While some in the military have linked conditions of poor pay and working conditions to corrupt politics, coup risk in PNG is rated low. Regular episodes of military intervention in politics are indicative of some level of discontent and tension that needs to be managed through broader socio-economic initiatives and dialogue.

While military mutinies have occurred in PNG, a fully-fledged military coup has not eventuated. In 1997, Sir Julius Chan, a former Prime Minister, attempted to employ foreign mercenaries to resolve the Bougainville civil war in what became known as the Sandline Affair. Ostensibly they had the task of training and mentoring the PNGDF in Bougainville, however it was rumored that they also had the task of locating and assassinating the BRA leadership. The PNGDF, suffering from a lack of funding, refused to work with the mercenaries and Chan was forced to step down as prime minister. This precedent has led the PNGDF to mistrust the civil authority at times and mutinies have resulted.

On 26 January 2012, 20 soldiers from the Taurama barracks in Port Moresby led by retired Colonel Yaura Sasa took Commander PNGDF Brigadier General Francis Agwi hostage for a short period, and attempted to force the reinstatement of former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to political office. Somare had been on prolonged leave of absence for health reasons. After Parliament declared his seat vacant Peter O'Neill was sworn in as the new leader. Somare challenged this decision by claiming it was unconstitutional.

The situation of having two Prime Ministers vying for the same office created a political crisis that had to be resolved constitutionally. The Governor General Sir Michael Ogio who had earlier ordered Somares re-instatement reversed his decision by declaring Peter O'Neill as new leader because he had majority support in parliament. Sasa was arrested on 26 January 2012 and charged with mutiny and the soldiers who participated were pardoned.





NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list