PORT MORESBY, 04 NOVEMBER 2020 (THE GUARDIAN)—Two policemen have been charged with rape allegedly committed inside a police station in Alotau Town, in Papua New Guinea’s south-east, but the city’s most senior officer said he fears others sexual assaults may have been committed by police, with victims too afraid to report attacks.
“I can honestly say that this practice may have been going on for a while,” Milne Bay provincial police commander Peter Barkie told the Guardian. “I’ve heard about it but since taking office I can only confirm two [alleged] cases, who were charged during my time.”
Barkie said rapes and sexual assaults were almost never reported to police, with victims deterred by cultural and social stigma and an abiding mistrust of the police.
“One of the main reasons is because these female detainees were ashamed and many were married women who wanted to protect their marriages, [so] none of them came forward.
“That is another reason why none of the women came forward, though there were whispers, I believe they were afraid to come out and lay an official complaint because at that time, people were afraid of the police.”
One assault survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, was detained at the police station for allegedly committing adultery – a crime under PNG law. The woman was allegedly raped by a policeman earlier this year. Two officers have been charged over the alleged assault.
Robert Ali, the director of PNG police’s internal investigation unit at that time of the alleged assault in March, said he was aware of the report of the alleged incident and confirmed the two officers’ cases were before the courts. The case has not yet gone to trial, delayed by Covid-19, and the officers have not yet entered pleas.
Ali said that he could not confirm or deny other alleged instances inside the police station were under investigation.
A Milne Bay resident who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said she believed assaults had been occurring for years and that perpetrators escaped prosecution because rape was seen as a taboo topic in conservative, deeply religious, PNG society.
“No woman would come forward and say she was raped, because sadly, society would look at her differently, they would blame her and even, sometimes, this destroys their marriages, and husbands instead of supporting their wives to seek justice, divorce them out of shame that she was raped.”
“A couple of us have tried to get this out, we’ve helped to lay complaints at the Alotau police station and when there was no response, we sent a report down to the police headquarters in Port Moresby, and also sent a report to the police internal investigation unit… but most times, nothing comes out of it,” the source said.
Unrelated to alleged offences in Alotau Town, PNG’s reformist police minister Bryan Kramer made an extraordinary condemnation of his own force last month, alleging the police force was the most corrupt public agency in the country, engaged in drug-smuggling, gun-running, land theft and criminal violence.
“I found our police force in complete disarray and riddled with corruption… add to that a rampant culture of police ill-discipline and brutality,” Kramer wrote about his first 15 months as police minister.
PNG’s police commissioner David Manning, has also conceded his force includes “criminals in uniform”.
Alotau Town has been seized by unrest and criminal violence in recent years, including attacks on police by armed gangs, and riots after visiting policemen killed pedestrians in a road accident.
Milne Bay commander Barkie urged women who had been assaulted to lay complaints with the police.
“One who did come forward…, I asked her to write a statement but she didn’t want to and instead wanted to remain anonymous to protect her marriage, she was afraid her husband would leave her if he knew she was raped, so it’s quite sad, I can’t help them if they won’t lay a report or tell me about it,” he said.
Barkie said he was working to reform the culture and practices at the station and across Milne Bay. In his three-month term as commander, four officers had been dismissed and charged over allegations of rape, murder and theft. A further eight officers have been charged with serious disciplinary offences.
“And I’ve still got a long list pending. It’s a difficult thing to do, to take disciplinary actions against your own men or having them charged criminally, but [if] they have stepped out of line [they] have to be held accountable.
“Someone has to do it, we have to make a stand, if we are to restore… the public’s faith in the constabulary,” he said….PACNEWS

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