IDRC Pan Asia Networking sponsorship

Law and Order: who needs to know what and how?

by:  Garry Sali, Department of Anthropology, Sociology, University of Papua New Guinea

I wish to emphasis again a point which have been already made by several speakers that, information is the most important component of nation“s development. As the Vice Minister for Education, Honourable John Waiko, pointed out, a modern nation state cannot be productive without information. Information, therefore, is the key tool in the name of progress and development of Papua New Guinea.

In the domain of crime control and prevention, information is not only an important part of knowledge but it is a necessary prerequisite for developing strategies in dealing with the prevalence of criminal behaviours. One needs to know the intricate nature of law and order issue before one talks about it.

Law and order is a broadly based subject and a complicated issue itself, and it is practically not possible for me to cover all aspects of information on law and order issue within this short time-frame. Therefore, while concentrating on law and order problems, I will confine my discussion on to what I say "bridging the gap between the major players of the modern nation state and the grassroots at the local level in Papua New Guinea". There is a need to bridge the gap between the "first" (policy makers, politicians, and academics) and the "last" (ordinary people at the local level) through a well coordinated system of "information network", so that there is a mutual understanding and cooperation between and among them.

Before moving on to that, let me bring our thoughts back to the prevalence of law and order problems, state responses and what should be done on this problem.


After almost twenty two years of independence, "the law and order remains the single most important issue on the agenda of public debate in Papua New Guinea" (Dennin, 1989:10). The impression is one of rising law and order problems on one hand, and an ineffective crime prevention capacity on the other (Dennin, 1992:1). The public and media impression is that social crisis, lawlessness, disorder or simply law and order problems are increasing and the country has a serious problem. Was it that lawlessness or criminal behaviours are meant for Papua New Guinea?

The fact however is that, crime is a multifaceted social phenomena and is a social evil of all societies. The issue of crime and social disorder have challenged the best minds of all civilised societies and continues to be a problem where ever it may have began. It is totally impossible to "flush" out the criminals and eradicate crime once and for all. For the reason being that, when we talk about solving law and order problems, we are in fact, talking about changing human beings attitudes and behaviours which have been influenced by some profound factors within the individual or the social environment that a person interacts. That is difficult and:

the only realistic approach to the law and order issue is not to try to eliminate or even drastically reduce it but develop methods which will allow society to live with it and make sure that law breakers do not seriously harm others (Sali, 1996:2).

While the talk on law and order problems have continued to attract academics, researchers and policy makers alike, successive governments have failed considerably to maintain control of the prevalence of crime and civil disorder since independence. State responses to the law and order problems in Papua New Guinea have not been based on any concrete philosophies of crime control and prevention. State responses have been in nature pragmatic, adhoc, crisis driven and influenced by emotive public pressure and political expediency (Dennin, 1992, in Sali, 1997:1-2). The problem, however, continues to be one of the most talked about issues in Papua New Guinea.

There is a need to get away from these pragmatic and crisis driven approaches and see the problem being shaped by complex mixture of factors such as:

political instability, corruption, criminal justice system inefficiency, rural-urban migration, inequality, adverse socio-economic conditions, poverty, unemployment, school push-outs, ineffective informal social controls, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of proper research and planning on law and order issues (Sali, 1996).

We need to address these issues one by one properly and effectively we are addressing the law and order problem. However, there is more to it. long before all the technical problems are addressed, the law and order problem is a political issue (Clifford, et al. 1984). State must position itself and introduce long term and firm law and order policies to address what is an escalating problem in Papua New Guinea.

In an endeavour to find meaningful solutions to the law and order problems, information on the nature, rate, and causal context are an important aspect of crime control and prevention. This is related to the theme of this seminar: "To know and Be Known". A question then follows: "who needs to know what, and how?"

Who needs to know what?

In the area of crime control and prevention, the policy makers, politicians, academics and researchers need to fully know and understand the social fabric of our society. Before laws can be passed and policies formulated, the academics and researchers need to study the social and cultural aspect of our diverse society and feed adequate and researched based information to politicians and policy makers to bring about appropriate laws and policies that in character reflect our society and culture. Law, policies and programmes which are not based on the internalised structure of society will prove to be less effective (Banks, 1993). Thus, there is a need to know the cultural context of our society by our policy makers to introduce policies that reflect the social environment itself.

From a bottom level point view, the people at the grassroots level must not only be a recipient but be participant. The local people, particularly those in the remotest area who are disadvantage from all means and are poor, have the right to know government policies and approaches on law and order. They need to know what the law says and how to behaive in a manner that is consistent with the established laws governing their respective areas and Papua New Guinea in general.

They also need to participate in making contribution to national, provincial and district approaches on law and order. They must be given an opportunity to inform government authorities regarding their social norms and values of their society. Most importantly, their informal means of dispute settlement and how they perceive problems and deal with it. The social and cultural condition of our diverse culture must be known to the government administration in each district and at provincial level.

How can this be done?

We have modern medium of information like radio programmes, newspapers, journal articles, pamphlets and others like awareness campaigns which are most likely to be carried out by students. Have they been effective? In a country where there is cultural diversity and more than 80 percent of population continue to live in a traditional lifestyle, there is little positive impact., if any. However, whether there has been positive or negative impact, it is subject to debate.

There is a need to adapt law and order policies that are reflective of our communities. This can be only done through an established mechanism that accommodates and attempts to seek views and pass on information to all sectors and levels of our society. "It is necessary to establish a modified administrative structure that is responsive to the needs and problems of law and order in Papua New Guinea as a matter of priority. It should be extended to the local levels where grassroots people are given an opportunity to participate and have a say in addressing the crime problem" (Sali, 1996:323).

Law and Order :  administrative structure

The law and order administrative structure should be headed by the National Executive Council (NEC). Others should be named as: Law and Order Coordination Team (LOCT); National Law, Order and Justice Council (NLOJC); Provincial Law, Order Justice Council (PLOJC); District Order Management Team (DOMT); and Local Level Order Management Team (LLOMT). The Criminal Justice System (CJS), National Research Institute (NRI) and University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) should be vital components of this structure, playing a mainly advisory role.

The proposed structure stretches down to the rural level where local participation is sought. Local level participation has been emphasised in many levels of government but in reality has been largely ignored. If law and order problems are to be controlled and prevented, the government will need to adopt, as a matter of priority an administrative structure. Our culture is so diverse that a policy maker sitting in a central planning body may know very little about the causal factors of law and order problems in areas other than his/her own village. Therefore, it is important that every community makes their contribution to any attempts to reduce crime.

The Local Level Order Management Team (LLOMT) would consist of village leaders, councillors, village court magistrates, and church leaders within the community. A person with formal educational background should be chosen to facilitate the team. The aim of such teams is not only to identify potential problems and propose measures to address these, but also to play a leading role in their respective communities to negotiate for peace and harmony in the event of law and order problems. Since Papua New Guinea cultures are diverse, the nature and the scope of law and order problems are also diverse. Therefore, such a Local Level Order Management Team is justified to address each and every problem in respective communities of Papua New Guinea. The LLOMT should be accountable to the District Order Management Team (DOMT).

The District Order Management Team (DOMT) is primarily comprised of government employees. Whilst the district manager automatically qualifies as an adviser, and divisional heads being the core members of the team, the position of executive director of the team will need to be established. This is important for long term planning and effective implementation of projects. While performing relatively similar functions as the Local Level Order Management Team, the District Order Management Team is responsible for the provision of expert advice and oversees the performance of the Local Level Order Management Team. The District Order Management Team is accountable to the Provincial Law, Order and Justice Council (PLOJC).

While the Governor of the province heads the Provincial Law, Order and Justice Council (PLOJC), the chairman of every District Order Management Team automatically qualifies as the member of Provincial Law, Order and Justice Council. The rest of the members should come from respective law and order agencies in the province. It is also important to create a position of executive director on the Provincial Law, Order Justice Council to promote effective administration of the council. Whilst the aims remain the same for the District Order Management Team and the Local Level Order Management Team, at broader provincial level, the PLOJC oversees and gives advice to the DOMT where necessary. The Provincial Law, Order and Justice Council would be accountable to the National Law, Order Justice Council (NLOJC).

The National Law, Order Justice Council (NLOJC) is already established and through the Law and Order Coordination Team (LOCT) reports to the National Executive Council (NEC). The purpose has been to propose ideas on how to control, reduce and prevent crime and to provide a safe and secure environment for citizens to develop themselves and contribute to national development as a whole. The issue is not just a narrow law and order problem in Port Moresby, but an issue that concerns the country as a whole. Therefore, the National Law, Order Justice Council cannot operate on its own or function in isolation. It requires a network of information flows and support to advise the NEC properly. The provincial, district and local level teams are therefore vital and justified in this sense.

The Law and Order Coordination Team (LOCT) reports to the NEC and performs the duties of a central coordinating body for crime in Papua New Guinea. This body was recommended by Clifford and others in 1984 and exists within the Prime Minister and National Executive Council. It is small in size but plays a significant and powerful role in policy reforms relating to law and order.

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) should be responsible for feeding information on the nature and prevalence of crime problems in Papua New Guinea to the Law and Order Council Team through the National Law, Order and Justice Council. The Criminal Justice System should also suggest policy reforms and measures to combat criminal and delinquent acts.

The National Research Institute (NRI) and University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) must not be ignored in any policy reforms. The two institutions are "think tanks" and opportunities should be given so that they can offer constructive suggestions and challenge government law and order policies. The National Research Institute and University of Papua New Guinea should continue to provide the Law and Order Coordination Team (through the National Law, Order and Justice Council) with expert advice on the nature and prevalence of, and how to respond to, law and order problems.


The model above is a skeleton that further requires the necessary components to make the frame complete. This is not just another creation of government institution but it is a structure that is aimed at utilising the existing instruments and resources the state in the spirit of the recent provincial and local level government reforms.

It starts from the bottom and finishes at the top, or it starts from the top and finishes at the bottom. This structure accommodates the views of all local communities in our diverse cultural setting, therefore, covering the theme of this seminar: "the need to know and be known".


Banks, C., 1993. Women in Transition: Social Control in Papua New Guinea. Canberra: Australia Institute of Criminology.

Clifford, W., et al, 1984. Law and Order in Papua New Guinea: Report and Recommendations. Port Moresby: Institute of National Affairs and the Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research. Volume one.

Dinnen, S., 1992. 'Crime, development and criminological research in Papua New Guinea', Waigaini: National Research Institute Discussion Paper No.66

Dinnen, S., 1989. 'Crime, Law and order in Papua New Guinea,' Melanesian Law Journal. 17:10-25

Sali, G., 1997. ‘The Problems of law and order explained in the context of modernisation and urbanisation in Papua New Guinea’, Port Moresby: NRI Discussion Paper Draft.

Sali, G., 1996. Law and order in contemporary Papua New Guinea: An examination of causes and policy options, Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Department of Applied Social Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington.


Bridging the Gap Between the Last and the First Through Information as a Medium,of Communication: A Case of Law and Order - by Garry Sali, Dept. Anthropology/Sociology, University of Papua New Guinea - paper for 1997 Waigani Seminar
e-mail author:  c/o John Evans John Evans et al
Papua New Guinea © 2000

Return to top of page

Site Search Engine

Section Directory

A case for law and order
. conclusion