Papua New Guinea Correctional Service is in a very, very sad situation since the news of the appointment of Chief Inspector Bernard Nepo as the Acting Commissioner broke out on Thursday, 04th February, 2016.
This appointment whether true or not, is purported to have gone straight to Cabinet by passing the National Executive Council. There has been no formal announcement by the National Government through the Minister for Correctional Service, Honorable Jim B Simatab until today.
I as the current Commissioner was not accorded with the proper privilege by the Minister to inform me of the NEC decision. However, a short brief was relayed to me by the First Secretary, Mr. Ted Sitapai on Friday, 05th February, on this appointment.
Since the so-called appointment by the NEC of Chief Inspector Bernard Nepo, certain Officers from Enga Province, Hela, Southern Highlands, Chimbu and Western Highlands have absented themselves from work. They started celebrating the appointment as some short of a tribal victory.
May I state here that Papua New Guinea Correctional Service is a Government Institution owned by the people of Papua New Guinea and not the Highlands people.
These Officers are supported by Deputy Commissioner Dennis Piandi from Western Highlands Province, Chief Superintendent Michael Mondia and Chief Superintendent Chris Waienge from Chimbu Province. About 12 more Officers are roving around Bomana.
This is a first in this department to have tribal groups commandeering a state agency. All these Officers are well supported by Minister Simatab, so there will be no disciplinary action taken against these rogue officers because of political support.
Since Thursday, 04th to Sunday, 07th of February, the rogue officers from Highlands have been celebrating right in front of all the Correctional Officers here at Bomana, CS Training College and Kerepia Barracks.
Officers were heard shouting and calling me all kinds of names. Sergeant Joe Yamason and few Officers started celebrating from Thursday up to early Sunday morning with stereo at high volumes. All these events were witnessed by Officers and their families at Bomana Kerepia Barracks.
Sergeant Yamason is claiming to be Minister Simatab’s “brother’. He is one of the rogue officers who was used to plot against Commissioner Sikani and now against me. He is unfit to be a discipline officer in Papua New Guinea Correctional Service.
As with the Government’s decision, whether true or not is something I will always follow. I am happy to leave the organization. When I took office, I did not use guns against any Officer. I did not threaten any officer. I promoted officers right across the board for the first time with the engagement of an Independent Promotion Board. I have brought stability and united all officers from different provinces and the four regions. During my reign as Commissioner, I was always aware of senior officers within my management team who were always trying to topple me.
What I fear has now become a reality with this sudden change where Highlands Officers are making a mockery of the Papua New Guinea Correctional Service. This proud department is now shattered by the bullying of these rogue officers. There will never be unity in this department. All these have happened during the reign of Minister Simatab.
He is the one who is destroying this department by encouraging tribalism and regionalism to take hold of the only discipline force that has a proud history of stability. I am also certain that there are influential individuals with business interests who are funding this move. If this is true, than corruption has already grown root and spreading itself into Papua New Guinea Correctional Service.
I will leave with satisfaction. I have spent over 40 years starting from a young officer to where I am now as the Commissioner. I have gone through hell and death, while holding Kuveria jail (Bougainvile Crisis) in January 1990; as the only Commissioned Officer who stayed alive with my Officers and families; sadly we lost 5 Officers and a young girl. I have done great service to Papua New Guinea, the Government, and the people.
I have contributed faithfully to the Papua New Guinea Correctional Service and will continue to do so; up to the day my contract will be terminated by the Government.
After 40 years, the last two weeks has been the most damaging to me. My Minister should have the courtesy to inform me that I will be terminated as the Commissioner. Prior to this event, I should have been given the honour to know why I should be terminated as Commissioner and respond to allegations levelled against me. Sadly I was not given that opportunity. I am also saddened that I was not given all the support from my Minister. I am still waiting as to when he will have the courtesy to call me and let me know the reason for the action he took.
All I am hearing from Officers is that I have been replaced and that Chief Inspector Bernard Nepo is now the Acting Commissioner. History will record for the first time a middle management officer with Chief Inspector rank has been appointed by the Government.
All the senior officers from Chief Superintendent to Deputy Commissioners have been overlooked for this important appointment. This has not happened before in Papua New Guinea Correctional Service, Papua New Guinea Defence Force, or the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. This again is the Minister’s prerogative to kill the command and respect in the Service.
As I bow out, I plead to the Government that to maintain stability in the department, I appeal to you to reconsider your decision again and immediately appointment a permanent Commissioner. This should be the priority to stabilise the department.
I have had time to identify the bad senior officers and their cohorts who have orchestrated a lot of disunity in the Service. I am in the process of taking appropriate action but that action has been delayed because I just got my Executive Management Team recently appointed; prior to that all were on acting basis.
As I conclude, the stability of the jails is important. I hope that all the serving Officers will continue working together during this trying time.