By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
MOUNT HAGEN, Papua New Guinea – Prisoners at a Papua New Guinea jail attempted to escape because they were not fed for two consecutive days. Prison guards successfully stopped the 487 prisoners from escaping. The prison break would have been the country’s biggest mass break-out in history.
The Baisu prison, located near Mount Hagen in the Western Highland Province of Papua New Guinea, only has capacity for 300 inmates, yet it holds 800 inmates. A warder stated that the prison is extremely overcrowded and the facilities are “rundown.” The 800 inmates were starving and left without food because a contract with the prison’s food suppliers had expired.
The chief superintendent of Baisu jail, Simon Sobaim, explained that the prisoners had nothing to eat since Sunday, October 18 because of a dispute between rival food suppliers over the contract with the prison.
As a result of the lack of food, three of the inmates fell ill. Fellow inmates were furious and demanded that the ill inmates be taken to the hospital. Soon after, 487 of the prisoners attempted to escape the prison on Tuesday afternoon.
The inmates were able to get pass three layers of fencing. Many of the watch towers at the prison had been pulled down because they were rotten and in extremely poor condition. Thus, the prisoners were able to pass the fencing more easily. The prison guards had to fire shots at the escapees to stop them, but no one was killed.
Sobaim stated that this incident “would not have happened had the ongoing ration problem been resolved.” The police commissioner has asked the former contractor to return to feed the inmates, and will continue to supply food until the dispute over the contract is resolved.
A representative of the prisoners stated that the next time the prisoners “were made to go hungry, they would simply walk out and risk being shot dead.” The representative further stated that “while they were lawbreakers, they had a right under the law to be fed.”
For more information, please see:
The National – Jail Drama – 21 October, 2009
Radio New Zealand International – Prisoners in PNG attempt to escape jail for not being fed – 21 October, 2009
The Timaru Herald – PNG’s biggest ever prison break prevented – 21 October, 2009
Times Online – Prison guards thwart mass breakout in Papua New Guinea – 21 October, 2009
UPI Asia – Hungry Papua inmates’ jailbreak foiled – 21 October, 2009