Police Commander for Southern Highlands Kaiglo Ambane says only police can check drivers and their passengers, not the local civilians who have been manning check points.
Firmin Nanol reports:
Presenter: Firmin Nanol
Speaker:Police Commander, Kaiglo Ambane, Southern Highlands Governor, William Powi
NANOL: In 2010 the Southern highlands provincial government imposed the liquor ban in the province.
The then Liquor Licensing Commission Chairman and former MP for Mendi, Pastor Issac Joseph said alcohol abuse and drinking problems have contributed to the province's law and order issues.
He moved a motion in the provincial assembly to impose a liquor ban which is still in place today.
Despite the ban, beer and other spirits are still being smuggled into the province and as far as the new Hela province.
It's being driven by a cashed-up black market with high demand and limited supply created by the PNG LNG gas project workforce in both Hela and the Southern highlands.
Southern Highlands police initially manned a security check- point at Kagul River, the border with the neighbouring Western Highlands to stop alcohol being smuggled in.
In 2011 a police officer was allegedly murdered and thrown into the Kagul River after he attempted to arrest alcohol smugglers.
In 2012, the provincial government then appointed some civilians led by its new Liquor Licensing Commissioner to man the checkpoint.
However the new Southern Highlands provincial Police Commander, Kaiglo Ambane says the check conducted by civilians is illegal.
He wants his officers to take over that role.
AMBANE: To enforce liquor ban police personnel working there, many of the public, the civilians can assist this, funded by the provincial government they can assist us.So we can work together, instead of the civilians working on their own, which is I think they're taking away the responsibility of the police officers. That means the policemen are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. Actually it's annoying, civilians, not authorised people trying to check other people, but it should take a while that we need to do awareness to make people aware and then the provincial government, then our leaders they should understand. So we need to have dialogue or understanding between different agencies and we do things right.
NANOL: He says sometimes people including businesses are being harassed and their goods and cargo damaged when they are forced to unload and reload at the checkpoint.
AMBANE: Yeah that's right and there can be other things found like illegal firearms or whatever it is. Police have wider powers and that's their responsibility, so they should take the lead. So we need to work together how we can effectively enforce it or we can address the legal issues.
NANOL: Southern Highlands Governor, William Powi says the decision was to stop beer in the province.
He says he welcomes the new Provincial Police Commander Kaiglo Ambane's plans for police to man the checkpoint at the Kagul River.
However, he says all sectors of the community should work together to stop beer from entering the province.
POWI: That liquor ban will be still enforced and we are enforcing that. So the roadblock in Western Highlands is a police function, there's no doubt on that. I think the police have outsourced this to civilians and auxiliary policemen because of the lack of numbers on the ground. But it is police work and I have not engaged civilians to this kind of work, and although the legal licensing can be a civilian, his job is basically to provide an overall coordinating framework with this entry of illegal, into the Southern Highlands. And the control of police, I understand the police commander has been recently appointed and he will come with constructive options and comments and all that, so I have no problems with that.
NANOL: Despite the checkpoints, beer is still being smuggled into the province via traditional routes.
A bottle of beer which normally costs around two Australian dollars is now reportedly selling for up to 10 dollars in Hela and Southern Highlands.
Several major hoteliers and beer distributors in the province have lost both business and revenue due to the liquor ban.
Generally the Southern highlanders have been appreciative since it started nearly three years ago. Firmin Nanol-Port Moresby.