PNG again to ask Australia for police

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be asked to send Australian police back to Papua New Guinea during a visit to Port Moresby on Thursday. ( dpa )

But PNG Internal Security Minister Sani Rambi said in advance of Rudd's first visit to the South Pacific's biggest country since his election in November that Australian police would not be allowed to operate independently.

"Australian police assistance must go through our command," he was quoted by The Nation newspaper as saying.

Australian police officers were sent in 2003 to help curb crime but were recalled by Canberra in 2005 after their immunity from prosecution was withdrawn by PNG's Supreme Court.

PNG, which secured independence from Australia in 1975, has been dogged by high crime rates and corruption and abuse by police officers.

In November, police in uniform hijacked a payroll plane and left its two Australian pilots tied up in the jungle.

Rapes and beatings are so common at police stations that law enforcers are seen as no better than the criminals, a 2007 report from New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

"By choosing not to punish abusive police, Papua New Guinea's leaders leave ordinary people as afraid of the police as they are of the criminals," the lobby group said.

The report detailed instances of police not facing court despite allegedly opening fire and killing children in a schoolyard.

Rudd is scheduled to meet Sir Michael Somare, the 71-year-old who declared independence in 1975 and who is into his third spell as prime minister.

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