Riots break out in Papua New Guinea

24 March 2017 – The head of the Salvation Army in Papua New Guinea says riots that swept through the main streets of capital city Port Moresby on Friday caused “great devastation” to people who already had so little.

Territorial Commander Colonel Kelvin Alley said he watched on helplessly as vital community services like the supermarket, medical centre, dentist and chemist burnt to the ground.

“These places where people had jobs, jobs that were probably the only income to a large extended family. Gone,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“The street rumour is that the fire was started deliberately.

“If so, it is a crime against people who every day face the injustices of poverty and deprivation, who often seek out a living on the streets and markets, but who depend on these vital services.”

Col Alley said although the situation had eased, the city’s Boroko region had experienced “great devastation”.

“Now that calm has been restored, we are left with this terribly empty feeling due to the totally unnecessary loss and destruction of not just buildings, but buildings that represent vital services to people who desperately need them,” he said.

Col Alley described looting during the riots as “astounding”, with hundreds of people taking part in order to get their hands on free goods.

It’s unclear what prompted the riots.

Kathy Testh, who works at the Mapang Missionary Home a few blocks away from the riots, told AAP she woke up to the sound of gunshots.

Ms Testh said she drove to a meeting only to return to find the main roads cordoned off and being manned by armed guards, to stop more people entering the area.

Col Alley said several Salvation Army staff had taken ill after smoke inundated the buildings, located on the same street as the riots.

“Almost the entire business block across the road has been destroyed, unnecessarily by raging fires, rampant looting and out of control crowds,” he said.

He said the Salvation Army was committed to supporting the community to rebuild.

PNG: Police, students clash; 23 injured

8 June – Police in Papua New Guinea fired gunshots Wednesday to quell a student protest demanding the prime minister’s resignation, the government said. The country’s police commissioner said nearly two dozen people were injured, but denied reports that as many as four people were killed.

Students in the South Pacific nation have been demanding for weeks that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill resign because of alleged corruption and mismanagement.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she had been advised by the Australian embassy that police shot students in Port Moresby, the capital, as hundreds prepared to march from the University of Papua New Guinea to Parliament.

“I know that students have been shot, but we’re still trying to determine whether there have been deaths and how many have been injured,” Bishop told reporters. “We call on all sides to be calm and to de-escalate the tension and certainly call on all sides to respect the peaceful and lawful right to protest.”

Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that a Papua New Guinea lawmaker told Parliament that four students had been killed and seven wounded.

Continue reading “PNG: Police, students clash; 23 injured”

PNG: Riot in Enga after student forum

Student awareness forum in Goroka

31 May – A student leader in Papua New Guinea has claimed a riot in Enga province was started by members of the public who were attacked by Police.

The police said students sparked the riot.

The students have been protesting for a month while demanding the PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, step down to face corruption allegations.

They’ve been promoting their demand around the country through an awareness campaign, which they brought to Wabag, the capital of Enga, last Thursday where the riot occured.

A student leader Youngsten Taliu Wally said more than fifteen thousand people had gathered in Wabag for the awareness forum when about a hundred members of the police force started firing tear gas.

“It was only provoked when the police tried to stop the students’ awareness. They fired tear gas and all these things to stop but they were outnumbered,” said Mr Wally.

“When all the police and people ran away the angry people got up and they stoned the BSP (Bank of South Pacific) building and the provincial centre building the Ipotas centre. Many shops around the town were destroyed and they were broken.”

Continue reading “PNG: Riot in Enga after student forum”

PNG: Police Shoot Dead 11 Prisoners Following Mass Breakout

26 Feb – More than 60 prisoners are still at large in Papua New Guinea following a mass breakout of 94 inmates in the Pacific nation’s second largest city on Thursday. Police shot and killed at least 11 prisoners and wounded at least 17.

Prisoners reportedly attacked two guards at the Buimo prison in Lae, a city of around 100,000 people located nearly 200 miles north of the country’s capital, Port Moresby. The injured were taken to nearby Angau hospital, with Australia’s ABC News reporting that four inmates are in critical condition.

“It is confirmed that 11 prisoners have been shot and killed and 17 wounded and recaptured,” Metropolitan Superintendent Anthony Wagambie told Papua New Guinea news outlet EMTV.

All of the prisoners involved were in pre-trial detention, according to ABC.

Papua New Guinea’s prison population of over 4,500 is around 93 percent of maximum capacity, with at least 35 percent of inmates held in pre-trial detention, according to the International Centre for Prisons Studies.

In 2009, 73 prisoners cut through two fences to escape from the same facility.

Papua New Guinea, formerly administered by its near-neighbor Australia, struggles with endemic violence and poverty. The Australian government warns of “high levels of serious crime” on its travel advice website and refers to a “general atmosphere of lawlessness.” Violence against women is also a particular problem.

Following a visit to the country in March 2015, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns expressed concerns about police use of excessive force during arrest, interrogation, and pre-trial detention, sometimes resulting in death.

According to the World Bank, Lae has a murder rate of 66 per 100,000 — higher than the country’s notoriously violent capital.

PNG: Protesting students ordered to return to class

2 Sept – Students at Goroka University in Papua New Guinea have been given until next Monday to return to classes after weeks of boycotts.

The Minister for Higher Education, Malakai Tabar, has this week suspended the vice chancellor Dr Gairo Onagi, a move the students had been demanding.

The minister also dismissed the university council after deciding it had not fulfilled its role.

A Higher Education Department official, Charles Mabia, says an interim council has been put in place and students have been given an ultimatum to return to class.

“The Minister is now calling on the students to return back to classes on the 7th of September. See, if they don’t return to classes the university may not see the completion of the academic year successfully.”

More than three weeks of protests culminated last week in a street march in Goroka by a group of 1,000 students.

Police, who say the march was illegal, fired into the students to disperse them.

Students gather at the University of Goroka

Earlier this year, on August 28 police shot and wounded two students at the University of Goroka during protests over the resignation of the university’s vice chancellor.

The provincial police commander, Superintendent John Kale, had claimed that the protest was illegal and police set up a road block to stop it from progressing.

Mr Kale says stones were thrown at officers, who then discharged their firearms at the crowd.

Long-time resident Sarah Shelley said the large crowd of students were chanting “no VC no UNI” and that as soon as the group made its way to the Post Office there were met by police.

“Police and protestors started clashing. Then police opened fire to disperse the crowd.”

She said this lasted between 15 to 20 minutes and the crowd retreated to the campus.”

“It was intense and there was a lot of gunfire,” she added.

Campus property was damaged by angry students who say they will continue the protest until the Vice Chancellor Dr Gairo is removed.

Images posted on Facebook showed damage to the campus, including broken windows and kitchen appliances on fire.

Two students were shot and taken to hospital.

A smashed fixtures is seen at the University of Goroka

PNG: 5 Day Blockade After Police Shooting

29 January: A five-day blockade that cut fuel supplies to Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, and forced some power stations to close ended on 29 January.

The blockade was imposed by villagers from Hanuabada after two betel nut vendors were shot and killed by police who fired into a crowd.

Locals say police fired indiscriminately into a crowd of men, women and children after a dispute between betel nut sellers and council officers. Angry Hanuabadans maintained roadblocks around the village, one of which blocks the road to the PNG LNG plant site outside the capital.

Radio NZ correspondent, Todagia Kelola, says the police commissioner, Geoffrey Vaki, and other senior government officials visited the village, and negotiated the end of the blockade.

Mr Kelola says the blockade’s end came at a crucial moment. “Port Moresby city almost came to a standstill with the fuel for the city running short because tankers were blocked, and at the same time the power station that supports supply to city, the expatriates that operate that power plant had to be evacuated, so the power plant was shut down.”

Todagia Kelola says it’s not clear what deal was reached with police, as the villagers had originally demanded 4 million US dollars compensation for the killings.

PNG: Deadly clashes between locals & the world’s biggest gold mining company

Papua New Guinea Mine Watch, 8 December: Violent clashes have once again erupted between local people, police and company security guards at the giant Porgera gold and silver mine in Papua New Guinea’s highlands, operated and largely owned by the Canadian corporation Barrick Gold – the world’s biggest gold mining company.

Green Left Weekly has been informed by a Porgera-based human rights group called the Akali Tange Association that major riots broke out following the December 2 fatal shooting of four local people by company security guards and members of the notorious PNG Police Mobile Task Force. One security guard was also killed.

On December 3 local people massed in their thousands around Porgera station, forced the mine to curtail its operations and clashed with paramilitary police.

One more local was reported to have been shot dead in the afternoon hours of that day when the angry crowd marched towards Paiam town.

“According to eyewitnesses the victim received bullet wounds on the head. The shooting occurred at Pogema bridge.

“Police blocked marching crowd from advancing towards Paiam when the confrontation triggered of shooting. Soon after, the raging mobs returned towards Porgera in rampage and anything on their way was destroyed. Continue reading “PNG: Deadly clashes between locals & the world’s biggest gold mining company”

PNG: Protests on Manus Island

2 September: Landowners on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island are demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation from the Australian government or they will shut off water to the asylum seeker detention centre.

Local MP and vice minister for trade Ron Knight told AAP the landowners are demanding kina 231,000 ($A108,000) in compensation for use of a dump site near Lombrum naval base, where Australia is currently housing about 500 asylum seekers.

The groups also want kina 21,000 (A$9700) per month for continued use of the dump as well as another kina 60,000 (A$28,000) per month to cover anchorage and waste management of Australian Navy ships.

The landowners on the weekend blocked the dump and a gravel pit being used by the Australian government and say they will shut down water if their demands are not met by Tuesday.

“That is the next step,” Mr Knight told AAP. “This isn’t going to be a protest. It’s going to be a very, very quiet guerilla war.” Continue reading “PNG: Protests on Manus Island”