Security institutions neglected: O’Neil
The PNG government has chosen a new Commander for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF)—Colonel Gilbert Toropo, the former Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment. The announcement came soon after PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill launched the country’s first ever National Security Policy and an updated the Defence White Paper at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby on December 20, 2013. After a lengthy process of security sector reform in the 2000s, O’Neill acknowledged there was still a long way to go: “Our national security has lacked cohesion and effective coordination since independence. “Our response to security issues has been largely disjointed as a result.
Our national security institutions have been neglected to the extent where they lack appropriate capabilities to provide effective public safety and protection of our natural resources and our international borders.” Toropo, 51, hails from the Southern Highlands Province, like Prime Minister O’Neill. He was one of the first PNG officers to receive Special Forces’ training in the United States and also participated ina senior officers’ training in Australia in 2007, when he attended the Australian Defence Force’s Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (CDSS) in Canberra.
The PNG National Executive Council also appointed retired Colonel Jeffrey Wiri as the new chief of operations of the PNGDF. Outgoing Commander BrigadierGeneral Francis Agwi will take up a new role as PNG’s High Commissioner to New Zealand. In the 1990s, defence relations between Canberra and Port Moresby were strained by debates over human rights abuses, the use of Australiansupplied helicopters and patrol boats during the conflict in Bougainville and the Sandline affair. At government level, those debates are long gone and Papua New Guinea is being presented as a key strategic partner.
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