Papua New Guinea Declares State of Emergency After 16 Killed In Rioting

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Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister declared a state of emergency on Thursday, taking decisive action by suspending government and police officials in the aftermath of a riot that resulted in the tragic deaths of 16 people in the Pacific island nation.

The unrest originated from a police and public sector protest on Wednesday over a pay cut attributed to an administrative glitch. What began as a demonstration quickly escalated into lawlessness, as evidenced by television footage depicting thousands of individuals in the streets of the capital, Port Moresby. Many were seen carrying what appeared to be looted merchandise while black smoke engulfed the city.

Citing police reports, Australian state broadcaster ABC disclosed that nine people lost their lives in the rioting in Port Moresby, with an additional seven fatalities reported in Lae, situated in the northern region of the gold and copper-mining country.

Prime Minister James Marape, addressing a press conference, announced the suspension of Papua New Guinea’s Chief of Police and key officials in the finance and treasury departments. This measure is part of a government-initiated review to ascertain the root cause of the riots.

“There was evidence of organised rioting that took place,” he stated, emphasising that the review aims to ” we secure democracy, [and] secure the rule of law.” He further noted that around 1,000 military personnel are on standby to prevent further unrest.

While violence in the capital subsided on Thursday, the government responded by deploying additional police to maintain order. The United States embassy in Port Moresby acknowledged the return of police to duty but expressed concern about persistently high tensions, cautioning that “the relative calm can change at a moment’s notice.” Reports of violence in various other areas of the country were also noted.

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Incidents of vandalism and looting targeted Chinese-owned stores, resulting in several lightly injured Chinese citizens, according to the Chinese embassy. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reassured that the situation is being monitored by the country’s high commission, stressing that Canberra has not yet received any requests for assistance from Papua New Guinea.

“We continue to urge calm at this difficult time,” Albanese said, highlighting the strong relationship between the two nations. Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea police have grappled with a surge in violent crime over the past year. Marape has emphasised that enhancing security is crucial for attracting foreign investment in the nation’s gold and copper resources.

The strike by police on Wednesday was triggered by the discovery of a reduction in their pay packets. In response, the government used social media to dispel rumours of a new tax on police, with Marape assuring that any administrative errors causing the pay shortfall would be promptly addressed. An official conveyed to local radio FM100 on Wednesday that without police, the city had “lost control.


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