IN the last three days I received numerous messages asking if I knew anything about the heavily armed foreign nationals seen walking the streets of Port Moresby. My response was no and that I would have to look into it.
Yesterday the Commissioner of Police Gary Baki issued a press statement on the same issue triggering me to take some time out to make my own inquires into the matter.
Baki stated that "Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary is currently engaged in discussions with an American based security company, Laurence Aviation & Security Group, to train an elite rapid response team for APEC 2018 and for ongoing policing into the future."
He explained that the company staffed by former American military and police personnel offers high-end security solutions to its customers globally including the United States Government.
“I was approached by the president of the company, Mr. Peter Halliman around July last year. He was offering his company’s services to the RPNGC. Mr. Halliman is an American citizen but he was born in Bulolo in 1961 and grew up in the Lake Kopiago/Koroba area of the Hela Province. His parents were Baptist missionaries."
“As the Commissioner of Police and Commander of the APEC 2018 Joint Task Force I have been concerned at our response capability should we be faced with serious security threats such as a hostage situation for instance."
“I invited Laurence Aviation & Security Group to come to PNG in February this year to do a presentation for the senior police hierarchy on what they can offer to the RPNGC in terms of training."
“Other government departments were invited to attend the presentation including the PNG Defence Force, the Correctional Services and PNG Customs. As a matter of formality I wrote to the United States Embassy informing the embassy of the RPNGC’s intentions."
“Following the presentation I decided that the company had the necessary credentials, skills, experience and expertise to train an elite rapid response team for PNG which I intend to set up especially for APEC 2018,” Commissioner Baki said.
Laurence Aviation & Security Group has proposed a five months (140 days) training for the elite rapid response team. A team of 15 instructors from Laurence Aviation & Security Group are expected in be in country for the training program once the engagement is confirmed.
Mr Baki said the 15 LASG personnel have been appointed Special Constables and this will continue for the duration of the training period.
“Two of the members of LASG have been in the country since February and I authorized them to go on day and night patrols with teams from the NCD Command, especially the NCD Task Force to assess and appreciate their operational capabilities and shortfalls. If they are going to be training our men they need to know what our response capabilities are,” Commissioner Baki said.
He said that during the attachment the LASG team has made a number of observations which will now be addressed in the training package as well such as:
· A lack of supervision and command and control at the station and street level;
· A lack of proper police equipment including uniforms;
· A prevalence or high instances of police human rights abuse; and
· A general lack of knowledge of and or adherence to set police practices, processes and procedures.
“I believe LASG can and will help the RPNGC to improve its policing services during and beyond APEC 2018. We need this intervention and we need it now,” Commissioner Baki concluded.
While this is Baki's official Statement but what is the truth?
The truth is Laurence Aviation & Security Group is start up company only registered in May 2016.
The two people behind it are two Americans Peter Halliman and Stephen Blovat.
Who are they?
Halliman is a Baptist missionary who has absolutely no background in aviation or security. His Linked-In profile states he currently manages Sovereign Grace Baptist Mission of Malawi (Africa) and Papua New Guinea.
His accomplishment include being citified to wield 2 to 36 inch carbon, stainless chrome-molly pipes. His skills are operation of sawmill, cutting of timber and construction of buildings.
Blovat is ex US army aviation safety officer and medevac pilot. In September 2015 he retired from the army to setup his small business in State of Tennessee in US, consulting in safety training. He lists his skills as flight safety, military training and operations.
So sometime between September 2015 and May 2016 Bolvat residing in the US met with Halliman a baptist missionary who was based in PNG. They realized there was real money to be made in PNG's Oil and Gas industry - specifically in the field of aviation and security.
So in May 2016 Blovat registered Laurence Aviation & Security Group in Tennessee in partnership with Halliman.
Bolvat recruited two employees his daughter Heather-Ann Marie as the company's Human Resource officer and Lori Darlin ex US Army helicopter pilot as their Director of Marketing.
In August 2016 company setup a facebook page and started advertising to recruit qualified commercial helicopter pilots, including aircraft maintainers, flight medics and flight ops personnel.
On 24 August 2016 Halliman registered Laurence Aviation & Security Group as an overseas company with PNG Investment Promotion.
It stated the company had three directors:
1) Peter Halliman (US citizen)
2) Charles Davidson (US citizen)
3) Steve Bolvat (US citizen)
Resident agent in PNG was a Johnson Limbya, former Agronomist at National Agriculture Research Institute and currently Managing Director of Hela Human Resource Ltd that advertises it leases light vehicles to PNG LNG Gas Project.
An interesting point is that Halliman stated that all their residential addresses was a hangar at Jackson Airport. Halliman also stated he was the CEO of the company.
In October 2016 the company advertised they operate helicopters in support of the oil and gas industry.
By November 2016 the company had employed and deployed 22 personnel all ex military recruits to PNG to carryout Pre-deployment Site Survey (PDSS).
Now I'm assuming they were also part of the team who made the presentation Commissioner of Police Gary Baki was talking about.
Why the company saw the need to deploy 22 ex military personnel to carryout a PDSS in PNG is anybody's guess? It certainly doesn't sound like an organisation engaged to carryout police training.
In December 2016 the company announced they were awarded the first of four planned contracts. The first being Police Training.
Two days later the company advertised to ex military personnel who had experience in Police Training. Job description stated they were seeking persons to conduct classroom and field security operations training using various specialized training methods and sources.
It stated among others as minimum skills requirement as having "Basic Security Police Officer Training and Basic Instructor Training"
So I guess they would be teaching PNG officers the basic policing, something they already knew.
A more concerning issue was that the company stated under "Desired Skills and Experience" - "Military background with deployment strongly preferred"
I wasn't aware PNG was a combat zone and having a military background was preferred skill?
It stated interested persons confident that your skills and experience are a match, please send your resume to LA+SG at LAandSGLLC@gmail.com. A gmail address!! really??
An interesting point is, if Baki claims he invited the company in February in 2017 then who awarded them the Police contract in December 2016.
Another point of issue is why did Baki engage a start-up company half way across the world that has no background in police or tactical training, generally or even for a world event such as APEC.
New Zealand and Australia have the worlds best trained police and military personnel. Australia hosted the APEC summit i 2007 and G20 in 2014 - would they not be the best country to train PNG law enforcement in special tactics rather than a start up company the other side of world?
In summary if you ask me this company was setup with one primary objective secure contracts in the multi-billion PNG Oil and Gas industry. It's problem being without any real track record or capability no major Oil & Gas company would award it a contract. Now if it came through the back door by establishing strong working relationships with PNG Police and Military it would have a strategic advantage.
What I am interested to know is who introduced the company to our Commissioner of Police? What if any relationship exists between them? What is the contract value?
While the Commissioner explained he made the decision to engage the company as Commander of the APEC 2018 Joint Task Force, however even that position and decision is still subject to PNG Finance & Management Act which requires any goods and services contract to be advertised and subject to the normal tender process.
One last point - I noted a comment made by Mr. Blovat on the discussion of the PNG Elections which he made the remark - "Never a dull moment if I can have any influence on it"
Perhaps a cause of action is to a file judicial review proceedings to establish whether Baki's decision to award such a contract was in fact lawful.
Growing up in PNG I recall the saying there are three types of expatriates that come here (3 M's) Missionary, Mercenaries and Misfits - In this instance it seems the Missionaries have gone into business with the Mercenaries.