Pacific Beat

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Law and Order
Top Cop Ryan Gets The Heat Treatment
To the people of new south wales, everything seemed right about the 1996 appointment of Peter Ryan as Police Commissioner. Stung by a royal commission that exposed high-level corruption in the force, citizens wanted to trust the charming, one-time British bobby. Most observers applauded as Ryan began cutting the dead wood from one of the world's largest police forces. Before long, the state government raised Ryan's salary to $A425,000. But after five years in Sydney, his white-knight image is tarnished. Last week was one of Ryan's worst, with open questioning of his commitment to cleaning up drug-riddled Cabramatta, and signs of a soured relationship with Police Minister Paul Whelan. "As a commissioner, he's a dud," says Dr. Richard Basham, a criminologist who assists police with investigations.

Critics paint Ryan as a schmoozer with a flair for spin. Referring to a TV mini-series, Blue Murder, which depicts the N.S.W. force at its corrupt nadir in the mid-'80s, Ryan last week urged a radio announcer to watch it because it showed the force he inherited. Fellow officers scoff at the claim, saying reforms were well advanced by the time Ryan arrived. "Peter Ryan is unapproachable," says Peta Blood, a former senior constable who quit the force two years ago. The Commissioner arrived in Sydney with a disinclination to trust anyone except the adviser he brought with him, Blood says. "He was isolated and secretive."

Ryan routinely hears these sorts of criticisms, but-according to a police observer-dismisses those who make them "as either crooks or fools." Qualified support for Ryan comes from Shadow Police Minister Andrew Tink, who says the Commissioner is partly a victim of government cutbacks-particularly its halving of the number of stations, which Tink blames for rising crime rates. "Whelan talked up Ryan to absurd levels ... but has now begun cutting him down," Tink says. Ryan has said he intends to see out his contract, which expires in 2004. The honeymoon is over.
-Daniel Williams

Workplace Stress
Man With 20 Missions
Is terepai maoate the busiest politician in the Pacific? As Cook Islanders last week celebrated the 36th anniversary of self-rule, their Prime Minister was tabling the country's Budget, looking for a new deputy, and juggling the region's longest list of portfolios. On July 26, Maoate sacked Deputy P.M. Norman George and took over George's responsibilities. Maoate-who said he'd felt like quitting because of the "intolerable strain" George caused during Budget negotiations-was already minister of Finance, Offshore Financial Services, Transport, and National Research, and in charge of his own and the Head of State's offices, and the national bank, investment corporation, airport authority, ports authority, and audit office. Now he's also Attorney-General-and minister for Health, Police, National Disaster Management, Information and Communication, Telecom, Crown Law, Customs, and Environment. When he was elected in 1999, Maoate-a former doctor-pledged his "toil and sweat." With 20 ministries, he's certain to deliver on that promise.
-Tom Dusevic

Dress, Minister
No-Gourd Zone?
Papua New Guinea's Parliament House is designed like a traditional haus tambaran, or spirit house, and adorned with traditional art. But what place should tradition have in its dress code? The nation's 108 M.P.s, who tend to be fashion conservatives, were rudely confronted with this question on July 27, when Papuan representative Alfred Kaiabe made his parliamentary debut in a striking ensemble of feathers, leaves and beads. His cool, crush-proof costume had fellow M.P.s applauding, and wondering if they too might swap their suits and ties for something simpler-a grass skirt, perhaps, or a penis gourd.

Asked for a ruling, Speaker Bernard Narokobi said he was inclined to allow traditional outfits so long as "decency" was maintained. His deputy, Thomas Koraea, scorns such laxity, saying he would have given Kaiabe a good dressing-down. "We adopted the Westminster system of democracy," he explains, "and we should also adopt its dress rules. We should not make a mockery of Parliament." But Narokobi points out that a clause in P.N.G.'s constitution urges the preservation of customary ways. Besides, he's not planning to unleash a sartorial free-for-all. "Total nakedness," he says, "we might not allow."
-Elizabeth Feizkhah