This is an article by my friend Reginald Regani, a retired Colonel of the PNG Defence Force.
Madeline Arek’s recent National newspaper report, “PNGDF for peacekeeping duties” and Defence Minister Dadae’s media statements compels me to add that International peacekeeping is not a national priority as discussed here.
According to this news report, parliament also recently passed the PNGDF Amendment Bill 2008 to allow among other things, committing our military to international peacekeeping duties in future. A youth and school cadet programs towards nation building and national security are also in the pipeline.
The Minister’s statements have important strategic implications for PNG. It surprisingly comes amidst no real parliamentary discussions on this issue and on related national security matters.
This important defence bill and others over the years are passed with little or no in-depth debate by politicians in parliament, and excludes the public. Ongoing public opinion do determine much of our public policy considerations in formulating strategic government policies, hence, it is most crucial parliament fully debate all strategic implications with this bill before any legislative decisions can be made for obvious reasons.
Defence must plan its future roles and activities better from here on as despite two defence white papers in 1996 and 1999 respectively and a near sixty-two per cent cut in 2001, core Defence capacity has substantially eroded. This seriously has affected defence’s effectiveness to rapidly respond to national emergencies in recent years. Here is the way ahead.
First of all, overseas peacekeeping missions for the PNGDF should not be a national priority at this stage. Today’s national priority must be to now focus on homeland security by seriously addressing the most basic things lacking with our military. The government must fully ensure the PNGDF is well equipped to deal with the many transnational security concerns PNG has now.
Secondly, get the PNGDF to start doing its basic functions well and fully resource it with a realistic budget of some 2.8 per cent of GDP.
Thirdly, implement a realistic action plan now to systematically upgrade all three force elements in the next decade sound management synergies with all levels of the defence organization.
Fourthly, rather than deploy troops on peacekeeping duties overseas, get our defence force to do more national development programs in rural PNG. The government must immediately establish a “Reserve Force” to directly contribute towards national security and development. A ready reserve scheme can be activated immediately today in the provinces to ensure effective management of government goods and services to all provinces.
Last but not the least, develop and implement a creative youth and school cadet program. We must inculcate general, positive attitude and strong committed ethos of service to others by our young people. It is time we fully harness them in leadership endeavours.
PNG can now adopt a military reserve force concept to develop the Mindset of our growing young population to serve their country to their fullest potential with pride, dedication and commitment. This is one good way to protect PNG as a well secured and developed nation tomorrow.
Notwithstanding, I want to commend Minister Dadae in trying his best these past two years to improve Defence under very difficult conditions. Defence is a difficult portfolio for any MP in recent years to successfully manage, especially when the government and parliament clearly lacks the required knowledge and skills in most matters concerning national security of PNG. What Defence Ministry urgently needs now an immediate increase in manpower and budgetary support from the government and parliament, the department and defence force, Industry and general community.
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