Last week’s murder of student Rex John at Laloki on the outskirts of Port Moresby is a wake-up call for PNG and Australian leaders.

It highlights the urgent need for the reinstatement of the PNG-Australia policing initiative (under which Australian police helped their PNG counterparts with training, mentoring and the creation of structures for governance).

Rex was travelling to Moresby last Monday to collect his academic gown for his graduation the following weekend as a Community Health Worker. A gang of cowardly thugs attacked his bus, bashing and stabbing the passengers with bush knives and machetes. Rex died of his wounds that evening.

PNG’s National 'Vision 2050' targets seven ‘key outcomes’. One of them is improved law and order: “Improving the law and order situation is essential to laying the foundations for socioeconomic growth and establishing investor confidence. Adequate budgetary allocations to the RPNGC [Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary] and the broader law and justice sector is necessary to combat law and order problems.”

Last year’s Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum recognised that … “Deterioration of law and order hinders development and disrupts delivery of government services and business. It inhibits the effectiveness of development assistance; it has a serious negative impact on investor confidence and on the quality of life of individuals.”

It is time for decisive leadership. It is time for a positive response to the violence. PNG’s leaders must act immediately to bring Rex John’s killers to justice and they must redouble their efforts to fight against the violence that shames their capital city.

One immediate response should be for the PNG and Australian Governments to join together to resinstate their joint policing initiative. It will provide PNG police with practical training and mentoring to better equip them to handle the growing violence and corruption. This should be followed by talks to establish a national police academy to provide a system under which overall police skills and standards can be lifted. 

For, until Papuan New Guineans can walk the streets of their capital without fear, PNG’s leaders cannot hold their heads high.