Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bad start to border operations



THE border security operation, Sunset Merona, got off to a bad start with a Vanimo police traffic officer hospitalised and a stand-off between Sandaun police and the Port Moresby-based police task force on border duties, The National reports.

Acting Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambie last night denied knowledge of the incident.

However, there were also unconfirmed reports that a PNG task force member was shot at and wounded by the Indonesian armed forces.

The man was admitted at the Vanimo General Hospital last night.

The border operation had also attracted the attention of Indonesian authorities after Wagambie allegedly led a contingent of uniformed PNG police task force members into Indonesian territory to shop last Saturday.

West Sepik provincial police commander Joe Kasieng had ordered the closure of the Vanimo police station after an alleged attack by task force members left a local police traffic officer with serious injuries.

The traffic officer had been hospitalised.

Sources from Vanimo said the incident had led to a stand-off between West Sepik and the Port Moresby-based task force.

The situation remained tense as Kasieng demanded the arrest of the police personnel involved in the attack.

The incident comes after Wagambie had attracted the ire of the Indonesian soldiers by crossing the border at Wutung with his men in full uniform into Batas market on the Indonesian side of the border to do shopping.

Indonesian official sources claimed that a PNG security force commander, going into Indonesian territory in full uniform, was a violation of international laws and border agreements unless it was a joint exercise between the two countries.

The Indonesian embassy, however, played down the border crossing issue as the Batas market was popular for shopping but, because of the PNG border exercise and because the police commissioner was involved, the crossing had raised eyebrows, particularly that of the Indonesian military.

Responding to questions, the embassy confirmed that last Saturday, some PNG police officers had crossed over into Batas to buy some souvenirs at the traditional Indonesian market.

An embassy spokesman said the tour was guided by a Mr Sutar (Indonesian consulate) and PNG border liaison officer Moses Poi.

The spokesman said this was allowed under current arrangements between the two countries.

Wagambie, when asked last night, said he was curious about the kind of trade going on at Batas and wanted to see for himself.

But, before crossing the border into Batas, he had asked Poi to seek permission from the Indonesian authorities to allow him a tour of the market facility.

However, the embassy spokesman stressed that the Indonesian government monitored the border constantly and would appreciate advance information on any activity, official or otherwise, which involved crossing the border.




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