By JUNIOR UKAHA
POLICE will arrest and charge people found to be spreading rumours that Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is dead, acting Commissioner of Police Anthony Wagambie said yesterday, The National reports.
The warning came as text messages, emails and the coconut wireless worked overtime during the weekend with claims Sir Michael had died in Singapore where he is seeking medical treatment.
Late last month, a similar message said Enga Governor Peter Ipatas had died.
"Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is alive and recovering in the hospital after undergoing surgery in Singapore and people should not spread malicious rumours about the prime minister's health," Wagambie said.
He said those spreading the rumour were people with "malicious intentions" and were "causing a lot of unnecessary anxiety and stress in the hearts and minds of ordinary Papua New Guineans".
Wagambie said he was concerned about the contents of the message and the way the message was spreading.
He said opportunists and criminal elements could take advantage of the situation and cause trouble in urban centres.
"The extent of this malicious rumour poses a threat to our internal security and, as such, I have issued instructions for police investigators to arrest anyone who is found spreading such false rumours," Wagambie said
He said under section 11 of the Summary Offences Act, spreading false information was an offence and any citizen found in the act would be arrested.
He said he had instructed his regional commanders to be on full alert in light of the hoax to deal with any unruly behaviour from opportunists and criminal cells.
He said Sir Michael was the "father of this nation" and people should accord him the highest respect at a time when he was recovering from surgery.
Wagambie said the rumour had caused "a lot of humiliation and distress" to Sir Michael's family.
Wagambie urged all citizens to be morally responsible by cross-checking the information they got via their mobile phone and email addresses with authorities.
Wagambie said the thoughts and prayers of the 5,000-odd members of the police force were with Sir Michael and they wished him a quick and smooth recovery.