Be Scott Waide, EMTV Lae Bereau Chief
The Defense Minister, Dr. Fabian Pok, saysthe expansion ofthPNG defense force is primary for the purpose of nation building but he has not ruled outthe possibility ofthe army’s use trouble spots aroundthe country.
He was speaking atthe opening of a course for defense force cadet officers at Lae’s Igam Barracks.
Dr. Pok maintains that much ofthe PNGDF’s focus will be on building roads bridges and ther infrastructure. His statement comes after he came under fire for suggestions thatthPNGDF would be used primarily for internal security in resource areas.
The new officer cadets arethe cream of new recruits. All volunteered to be trained in lLeadersip roles inthe expandin PNG defence force. They make up the initial part of total ten thousand men and women being recruited.
Whilethe increase in numbers is being commended in light of a booming economy and resource exploration,there are also growing concerns that Papua New Guineacould go downthe African route where large companies influence how a nation’s army is used.
“The defence force will not really be used to quell problems but will be used as an agent for the development of this country,” Dr. Pok said.
Papua New Guineacame close tothe African scenario when Sandline mercenaries were hired to quellthe Bougainville uprising. The operation was to have been carrlied out withthe assistance fromthPNGDF.
What could have been a disaster was prevented whenthe Defense force lead bythen commander, Beigadier General, Jerry Singirok, arrested more than one hundred mercenaries and called on Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan to step aside.
The expansion ofthe Defence force comes nearly twenty years afterthe end ofthe Bougainville crisis. Backthen,thPNGDF had strength of about six thousand. Afterthe war and afterthe Sandline crisis in 1997,the force was drastically reduced to about two thousand personnel.