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High powered guns still with warlords in PNG

Most high powered weapons used in tribal fights in Papua New Guinea were not surrendered and destroyed on Tuesday, Hela police and local leaders said.

Tagali local level government manager Gary Harai, said that the factory made weapons voluntarily surrendered and destroyed were obsolete because of defects or because ammunitions could not be found, and the widely used M16 and AR15 assault rifles were still in the hands of local warlords.

Harai said most of the .303 and .22 rifles were surrendered because their ammunitions were no longer available on the market, and M16 and AR15 rifles were not among the 105 factory made weapons surrendered. Only a few SLRs and AK47s were handed over.

“In Hela we see a lot of M16 and AR15 rifles in tribal fights. These guns were not surrendered,” he said.

Provincial police commander Superintendent Michael Welly confirmed Harai’s claim, and said that the local police knew that most of the weapons used in fights were not surrendered.

Welly said: “Most of the guns we know used in Hela were not surrendered. We gave this information to the security forces and it’s up to them to confiscate them.”

He however commended the security forces for overseeing the surrender and destruction of more than 1000 weapons, mostly homemade.

Harai said people from Hela take about a week to walk west to Kiunga in Western Province and south to Gulf Province and trade drugs for firearms.

“If somebody thinks people walk through tough terrain and cross rivers to exchange marijuana for homemade or outdated firearms, he would have to be completely stupid,” Harai said.

He said the Government needs to impose controls to ensure that bullets of all weapons were strictly monitored, starting with those of the disciplined forces.

Welly said Hela was a challenging place to enforce law and order and appealed to all people to work closely with his men and the security forces in the operation.

Local businessman Andy Kenamu said a number of complaints had been raised that politicians and businessmen have not surrendered their factory made high powered guns. He said that a 24 hour telephone hotline must be established at police stations for people to release information on these individuals.

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