Clear the streets and go home: PNG's Commissioner of Police

January 11, 2024 12:00 pm

[ Source : RNZ ]

Papua New Guinea’s Commissioner of Police David Manning has reiterated his call to all people in Port Moresby that now is the time to clear the streets and go home.

Civil unrest, sporadic looting, and arson broke out in the capital on Wednesday, local time, after police and the military went on strike over a pay deduction between US$26 and US$80 from their wages.

Buildings and shops were torched, and PNG’s fire chief officer Bill Roo said firefighters were outnumbered when trying to attend to fires, and some firefighters were also threatened by looters.

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One hospital was forced to evacuate its patients as fire from nearby shops spread.

There were also reports that the airport was closed with all international flights cancelled until further notice.

National newspaper Post-Courier has called it the “Darkest day in our city” on its front page on Thursday.

It said the security personnel – military and police – were on the streets after the “unprecedented looting and rampage by hooligans and opportunists”.

Commissioner David Manning said security forces will not tolerate troublemakers, and where innocent members of the public are threatened, live rounds may be used by standing orders.

Police reinforcements were sent from outside of the capital last night to maintain order.

How events unfolded
About 200 Papua New Guinea police and military personnel abandoned work on Wednesday to protest.

At 10 am (local time), police and military personnel gathered at Port Moresby’s Unagi oval in protest over what they say are hefty “tax” deductions in the most recent pay period.

The police union demanded answers from the government at the gathering and by 11 am, a large group proceeded to parliament where they demanded answers from the prime minister and members of the cabinet.

Law enforcement with PNG Defence Force soldiers stormed the nation’s parliament building where they have been addressed by officials over the dispute.

There are reports that security guards stood aside as police and military entered Parliament.

The deductions come as Papua New Guineans experienced a noticeable rise in the cost of goods and services in the last three months.

RNZ Pacific correspondent in PNG Scott Waide said the Internal Revenue Commissioner has released a statement, saying that the government was working as quickly as possible to resolve the issue.

Prime Minister James Marape later released a statement calling for calm while stating that the deductions were caused by a glitch in the government payroll system.