Citation(s) from the literature library

Alpers, Philip. 2005 ‘Sources of Ammunition.’ Gun-running in Papua New Guinea: From arrows to assault weapons in the Southern Highlands; Special Report No. 5, pp. 76-77. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. 1 July

Relevant contents

"Eriko's husband has a licensed firearm. He gets his ammunition from the policemen who sell him 20 bullets for PGK 100 [USD 33]."

-- Sarah Garap, Meri Kirap Support Team, Goroka (Garap, 2004, p. 30)

In the Highlands, this is by no means an isolated tale. Tamanda residents say that for years, unlicensed Karints fighters obtained most of their ammunition 'from police and defence'. US anthropologist James Pile reports that in Enga, eight years of warfare in Ambulyini territory were fuelled 'with bullets purchased from police and security guards'.(1)

Even Bire Kimisopa MP, the cabinet minister responsible for the police force, confirms that its officers are engaged in the 'indiscriminate sale of ammunition to the public at considerable cost to society'.(2)

In addition, licensed gun owners and arms dealers are alleged to fuel the illicit trade by way of both lawful and unlawful transfers of ammunition: as one community spokesman in Kagua put it: 'People in Port Moresby use their gun licence to buy bullets to kill animals, then they sell the bullets to raskols [from 'rascals'; i.e. Criminal gang members].'

Former Mendi police inspector Mark Yangen suspects another source of leakage: 'I have a licensed pump-action shotgun. Licensed dealers sell me ammo without sighting a licence. [I get the impression that] they'll do anything for money.'

Const. Joseph Tuhu, the police officer in charge of firearm licensing in Mendi, describes other stages of ammunition leakage: 'Many licensed owners sell ammunition to unlicensed gun owners. Every time a licensed owner wants to buy ammo, I have to sign an authorization form. I've reduced the number of boxes allowed per purchase from two to one, but I still can't tell if they're going to sell it to someone else.'

PNG legislation provides for a method of ammunition control that is common by international standards, but by no means universal. By allowing licensed gun owners to obtain only the ammunition needed for the type of gun(s) registered at licensing time with police, the owner of a lawfully held .22 rifle cannot legally buy ammunition for an unregistered 9 mm pistol or a high-powered assault rifle - nor for someone else's. But as Const. Tuhu observes, a sizeable problem remains: 'We don't know if the dealers stick to this. Only dealers can sell ammo, and they're in Lae and Port Moresby. We hear that politicians and business people also bribe dealers to provide illicit ammunition.'

PNG's wild game also attracts foreign hunters, their foreign exchange, and their ammunition. Charter flights from North Queensland drop hunters into remote airfields, sometimes with more bullets than they need. In November 2003, police confiscated more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition from a hunting lodge in Western Province. Regional police commander John Marru believed the ammunition and some firearms were for selling (Post-Courier, 2003i).

Military small arms ammunition seems to be subject to tighter restrictions than police supplies. As the military officer in charge, Col. Joe Fabila, puts it: 'All PNGDF 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm small arms ammunition is known to be safely held, almost all at Goldie River Barracks. It's difficult to steal, as I have to sign it all out.'

Sources cited:
1) Interview and correspondence with James Pile, anthropologist, Princeton University, July and August 2004. A summary of this interview can be found in: Alpers, Philip. 2004. Gun Violence, Crime and Politics in the Southern Highlands: Community Interviews and a Guide to Military-style Small Arms in Papua New Guinea. Unpublished background paper. Geneva: Small Arms Survey. December.
2) Post-Courier (Port Moresby). 2004. 'Police Force in Dire Need of ECP.' 26 July.

ID: Q9175

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