In my previous post I told the story of our Chief Administrator's run in with raskols in Siwai. Although this story was of interest on its own, it illustrates some significant problems facing law and justice in Bougainville.
As a local senior official has often said, "Bougainville has lots of laws but no order." The system of law and justice in Papua New Guinea is a slowly merging mix of customary and formal* approaches to conflict resolution. Bougainville is establishing a similar system post-Crisis. But it faces some significant challenges.
For example, at present there is approximately one police officer for every 1,341 Bougainvilleans, which, given that the population is mostly rural and spread over mountainous terrain, puts the formal system under some strain. The Bougainville Police Service are also unarmed and under resourced (shortage of houses, vehicles, police posts etc).
It is therefore not surprising that the BPS are struggling to assert their authority in the community. But we need that to change because there are a number of trends in the community that the ABG needs to get a handle on. They include:
- the prevalence of violent crime in the community (i.e. sexual assaults and retributive killings);
- the prevalence of domestic violence in the community;
- the continued presence of guns in the community;
- the trade in small and light arms over the border with the Solomon Islands; and
- the continued existence of the Morgan Junction and Tonu roadblocks.
These challenges are significant and I should note that none of the problems detailed here are unique to Bougainville – you will find similar examples in many other provinces in Papua Guinea, as reported by local media. The question for the Autonomous Bougainville Government is: can it take advantage of its autonomous status and steer the region away from the trend of rising crime and insecurity in Papua New Guinea?
* When I use the term 'formal' I am referring to the legal system introduced by Australia and adopted by Papua New Guinea when it gained independence in 1975.