The Commander of Defence Force (CDF) Major General Mark Goina has been suspended for three months, all to allow the General Board of Inquiry (GBOI) established by the Defence Minister to continue the inquiry into the fatal shooting of two service men, the wounding of another soldier, and a civilian during a training exercise on 04 July in Kupiano, Central province.
Prime Minister (PM) James Marape made the announcement, saying that the Cabinet finally received a brief from the Minister for Defence in relation to the unfortunate deaths of the two members of the force, the wounding of another, and a civilian.
“Since the death of the two soldiers and wounding of one other member and a civilian, in Kupiano on the 4th of July 2023, the Defence Force has faced internal challenges to properly convene the General Board of Inquiry into the unprecedented killing,” said the PM.
The National Executive Council (NEC) also noted that the GBOI has now fully convened and will be sitting through and taking statements and documents on the incident. Given the wide-ranging nature of its Terms of Reference (TOR), the NEC determined that the GBOI must be given support to pursue its terms of reference.
The Prime Minister said that the TOR of reference covers the shooting incident, but also ventures into any contributing factors which may have led to arms contamination in a training situation.
“As a government we owe it to our men and women of the Defence Force, and especially those who died or were wounded and their loved ones, to find out what went wrong, and how do we fix this wrong. We therefore welcome the General Board of Inquiry that was set up by the Defence Minister.”
The PM said that the Defence Force is a key institution of the Government, and its integrity and reputation is important. He also said that the GBOI is a legal process that will run independently and deliver its findings. The government will pick up on the recommendations from the GBOI and will address all the issues that come out of the findings.
“Therefore, to affirm the integrity of the GBOI, and also the dignity of the Commander, NEC took a decision to suspend the Commander under Section 6 (3) (b) of the Defence Act 1974 for three months, or until such time the GBOI delivers its findings.”
PM Marape also announced that Commodore Philip Polewara, who is the Deputy Chief of Defence Force, will be the Acting Chief of Defence Force in the interim.
“This action is taken to protect the independence and integrity of the GBOI, and should not, in any way, shape or form, imply any wrongdoing on the part of Major General Goina,” Marape said.