Papua New Guinea
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Death penalty – pack rape legislation

Law and disorder have changed over the years significantly. First the word rascal became popular.

Today you hear more about criminals doing armed hold-ups, robberies, gang rape, murder and police brutality. In the Highlands, what were once known as tribal fights involving bows and arrows have graduated to tribal wars using modern, high-powered weapons but are still regarded as tribal fights.

There are about a dozen people on death row. PNG has not been successful in deciding on the type of execution or finding the hangman. Other countries have tried to discourage PNG from sending convicted, serious offenders to their death as a deterrent to others.

Although the legislation for death penalty is said to be ready after 40 years of independence, this matter is still a long way off.

The call for the legislation of the death penalty came after the pack rape of a nine-year-old, her mother and another woman in Port Moresby .

When making the announcement of the government’s move on October 10, 1984, Prime Minister Michael Somare said the legislation would be needed to create a specific offence of pack rape which would then need a mandatory sentence for offenders. “It is a strong response to a serious matter. But I believe that community revulsion at the recent incident of pack rape will ensure that public support for this measure,” he said.

“At my direction, the secretary of my department, Andrew Yauieb, on Monday convened a top level meeting of senior officials from the departments of police, justice, lands and the National Capital District Interim Commission to support its ministerial group in its work.

“The group will immediately identify priorities and funding requirements. It will work in conjunction with the ministers to draw up a blue print for an ‘all out war’ on crime.” Mr Somare said pack rape was a horrific crime.

“The violation of an individual in such a brutal and animalistic way is an outrage. Women in PNG, both Papua New Guineans and visitors, have the right to walk freely without fear in the country.” He called on all sectors of the community to fully support the government.

“No one should be under any illusions,” Mr Somare said. “PNG is being hurt badly by the activities of criminals. Our image abroad is being harmed and potential investors are being deterred.”

The incident and the announcement by the Prime Minister to introduce the death penalty brought different reactions from all sectors of the community.

The public in Port Moresby decided to hold a protest march against the upsurge in crime. It was also decided that a petition protesting the increasing lawlessness and recommending courses of action, be presented to the government. In Lae, about 4000 people braved the rains to protest against the increasing lawlessness in the province.

The crowd presented a petition which contained 14 demands which was received by Morobe premier Utula Samana. The petition called for better police training and more foot patrols, a maximum security prison on an island for dangerous offenders, a rape squad and no bail money for people on rape charges.

It also called for a rape crisis center in major towns to help victims, an improvement in employment for school leavers, better village conditions and a cut in prices of goods and services.

People’s Progress Party leader, Sir Julius Chan, called the announcement by Mr Somare as only “a sop to the current high emotion”. He said the announcement was a tactic to draw attention away from his failure to control law and order.

“I would go further and accuse Mr Somare for quickly taking advantage of last week’s disgusting crime merely to give the impression that his government is actually doing something,” Sir Julius said.

“Heavier penalties were no use when most criminals got off the hook because the prosecutions did not stand up in court.”

He added that it had taken a series of most brutal and vicious crime to get the government’s head out of the sand.

Sir Percy Chatterton, a former missionary, teacher and politician also attacked Mr Somare’s announcement, saying death will not deter rapists from committing the crime. “This is a very passion swayed crime and I don’t think a chap will stop to think of the punishment,” he said.

“Being swept away by purely physical urges, there would be no stopping to think of the consequences. Another problem is that there can be nothing you can do about it if you find out later that you hanged the wrong man,” he warned. Sir Percy added that the big argument against capital punishment is that you can’t put it right later.

On October 17, 1984, the death penalty bill was rejected as a solution to violence and rape. The death penalty was not one of the recommendations in the report compiled by a committee headed by the then Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, Mr Yauieb.

Sources said that the Cabinet debate had determined that support for capital punishment would project an anti liberal image overseas and was not a proven deterrent.

Suggestions for other extreme measures such as tattoos for convicted criminals, castration and public flogging were also rejected. The Cabinet meeting ended with a longer list of measures than it had started with including many smaller administrative measures to improve the efficiency of law enforcement agencies.

There was also discussions to monitor liquor trading hours. Ministers also discussed the merits of imposing a curfew in Port Moresby, against the declaring of a state of emergency or even calling in the Defence Force to assist the police.

On Sunday, October 21, Prime Minister Somare, went on the national radio and told the nation that convicted rapists would be flogged and the police will be empowered to call on Defence Force soldiers in time of need to quell crime.

These were the two short-term measures in the crime crack down adopted by the Cabinet in its anti crime meeting.
But the plan was going to cost a lot and Mr Somare warned that services and projects would have to be cut. Government advisers were quick to dismiss notions that soldiers, trained to kill would be let loose with a free rein.

“They will be under the same constraints as the police and will be subject to the police command, and it’s likely that only a number will be armed,” one senior adviser said.

Mr Somare announced five areas of attack with the government’s program:
– Heavier sentences for vicious crimes;
– Immediate strengthening of police – more men and more expertise;
– Development of a larger and more skilled police force over succeeding years through better recruitment and training;
– Upgrading of courts and jails;
– Policies aimed at “organising the energies of our young people in a positive way”.
The tougher punishment for vicious crimes will include flogging of rapists and longer mandatory jail terms for violence.

“Corporal punishment received much support in Cabinet and provided there was no Constitutional difficulties, we will introduce legislation for it in the next sitting of Parliament,” Mr Somare explained.

Capital punishment was debated but was rejected by Cabinet on humanitarian and Christian grounds.

Mr Somare also announced that the police force will be strengthened immediately by 200 officers and will be added by 100 a year.

“This increase will allow the police to patrol more intensely- especially at night,” he said. “This expansion will be accompanied by a determined effort to improve police efficiency.”

A special squad was to be set up to deal with organised crime, with mobile squads used to back up urban patrolling. Extra expatriate officers were recruited to concentrate on training, prosecutions and middle level management. Boom gates were set up on some major roads leading out of Port Moresby.

The announcement on the government’s crime curbing measures were received with mixed reactions from the community.

Women leaders were not happy with Cabinet’s decision to reject the death penalty. Former politician Josephine Abaijah and the then Port Moresby Women’s Council vice president Margret Lokoloko renewed calls for immediate actions against rapists despite the hard-line policy announced.

“The government’s proposal for flogging and involvement of the Defence Force in police work will take time to come into force,” said Miss Abaijah. “We need someone who can take action now. The government has not given the people its assurance that they would be safe until the proposals are implemented.”

She said the proposals were good but they were not immediate actions that people needed. “People should be assured of their safety while the government is making up its mind about long-term measures,” said Miss Lokoloko.

However, Institute of National Affairs director Professor Brian Bogan agreed with the measures. “The proposals were nicely balanced and had brought long and short-term solutions to law and order problems,” he said.