Part of the solution or part of the problem? Private security in PNG
By Sinclair Dinnen and Grant Walton In a surprise move, Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) new Prime Minister, James Marape, has appointed member for Madang Open Bryan Kramer, as the country’s police minister. Soon after his appointment Kramer promised to reform PNG’s police force, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC). The one-time member of the opposition and critic of the O’Neill government, has outlined a range of measures, including providing more opportunities for women, addressing corruption and improving discipline. He is also encouraging citizens to report crime and police misdeeds through social media, which has already resulted in an arrest.
While Kramer’s promised reforms are encouraging, improving security in what is often depicted as one of the world’s most dangerous countries will not be easy. PNG’s police force is massively understaffed, poorly resourced, ill-disciplined and heavily factionalised. Even if reform were to improve the state’s police force, PNG’s serious fiscal crisis means that Kramer, and the still-to-be-appointed new police commissioner, will need to look beyond the RPNGC to find answers to PNG’s security problems.
One possible place to start looking will be PNG’s private security industry, which although intersecting with many areas of public policing has been largely ignored in policy and development discussions to date.
The private security industry has become the largest provider of security in the country. According to PNG’s Security Industries Authority (SIA), which is the designated regulator under the Security (Protection) Industry Act 2004, the number of licensed companies grew from 173 in 2006 to 464 in 2016, with a total workforce of around 27,709 security guards. These official figures don’t include what are believed to be the much higher number of unlicensed security companies and personnel operating in different parts of the country. However, the number of licensed guards is still well over three times that of serving police officers and …read more