Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Murder capital

Port Moresby listed among world’s worst

PORT Moresby has been placed among the top five murder capitals in the world, a ranking by a foreign publication that has got Police Commissioner Gari Baki fuming, The National newspaper reports today.

The Washington DC-based Foreign Policy publication, in its edition last September, lists Port Moresby alongside Caracas (Venezuela), Cape Town (South Africa), New Orleans (USA) and Moscow (Russia) as cities where you have a very good chance of getting murdered.

The Foreign Policy website ( , on which the listing is still available, says when it comes to brutal, homicidal violence, these five cities stand in a class of their own.

The publication said Caracas, which has a population of 3.2 million, had a murder rate of 130 per 100,000 residents, Cape Town had 3.5 million people and a murder rate of 62 per 100,000 residents, New Orleans had 220,000 people and a murder rate of 67 per 100,000 residents, Moscow had 10.4 million people and a murder rate of 9.6 per 100,000 residents, while Port Moresby had a population of 254,000 (2000 population census) and a murder rate of 54 per 100,000 people.

It described Port Moresby as a place with high violent crime rates, high level of police corruption and gang activity.

A spate of murders in recent weeks, especially the brutal killing of businessman Sir George Constantinou on Dec 16 and Air Niugini pilot Timothy Houji on New Year’s Day, would give critics little to argue against this very negative ranking.

But Mr Baki yesterday expressed disappointment at the ranking, especially when Port Moresby’s population was small in comparison to other world capitals.

He questioned the validity of Foreign Policy magazine’s listing of the world murder capitals.

“As commissioner of Papua New Guinea police, I was shocked and upset over Foreign Policy’s listing because it is simply not true,” he said in a letter distributed widely to be published.

“I have been a law enforcement officer for more than 35 years and I know, for a fact, that we have not had 54 murders in Port Moresby at any one time over the last 10 years.

“In fact, our annual average nationwide was much less,” Mr Baki said.

“It would be interesting to know the magazine’s source of its 2004 figures.”

He said the magazine also did not clearly indicate which year’s murder rates were used in its comparison exercise.

“These facts will have an overall bearing on the end results, especially for anyone making a comparative analysis such as that done by the Foreign Policy magazine.

“The report is grossly unfair on Papua New Guinea and sets back the many positive developments taking place within the country.

“There is no denying that PNG has a serious law and order problem.

“But, PNG and its problems cannot be compared with the four major cities Port Moresby was listed with,” Mr Baki said.

Foreign Policy’s article

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Population: 254,200 (2000 census)

Murder rate: 54 per 100,000 (2004 figure)

What’s happening: The capital of island country Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby might seem like a surprising addition to this list. But its high violent crime rates, along with high levels of police corruption and gang activity, helped earn the city the dubious title of “worst city” in a 2004 Economist Intelligence Unit survey. With gangs called “raskols” controlling the city centres and unemployment rates hovering around 80%, it’s easy to see how Port Moresby beat out the 130 other survey contenders. Port Moresby’s police don’t seem to be helping the crime situation last November, five officers were charged with offences ranging from murder to rape. And in August, the city’s police barracks were put on a three-month curfew due to a recent slew of bank heists reportedly planned inside the stations by officers and their co-conspirators. Rising tensions between Chinese migrants and native Papua New Guineans are also cause for alarm, as are reports of increased activity of organised Chinese crime syndicates.


  1. with the recent killings, there is little to dispute that ranking

    all the while there is an exodus of PNG professionals to other countries and I fear it will not only be a brain drain to this young nation but a shame if Papua New Guineans feel unsafe in their own country

  2. I am a case in point as I feel very insecure in my own country right now and I worry everyday about the future of my children.


  3. Yes Malum, it is sad and I am worried if PNG is going to change for the better or we'll only be going downhill day by day and year by year.

    I don't feel safe anymore in Port Moresby and have since decided not to ever travel to other notorious centers such as Lae or the any of the Highlands provinces because of the stories and headlines I am reading in the papers.

    I don't know, I might just be freaking out but I don't wanna ever risk myself.

    In fact my village is better than any town or city. I feel safer in my own village than living in any of PNG's urban centers.

    As a matter of fact I am already planning on working and living elsewhere, where there's some sense of decency and respect for human life.