Opposition MP files criminal complaint over PNG election

By RNZ Pacific

A Papua New Guinea opposition MP has filed a criminal complaint against the Electoral Commissioner for alleged misdeeds in last year’s general election.

Madang Open’s Bryan Kramer yesterday filed a formal complaint about Commissioner Patilias Gamato with the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate.

Kramer’s complaint focuses on the election in the provincial seat of Southern Highlands.

He said Gamato’s premature declaration of a result was an act of electoral fraud that must not be allowed to be “swept under the carpet”.

One of the most controversial results in an election hampered with irregularities, it sparked deadly violence among supporters of rival candidates in the province.

Tensions have lingered, and a court ruling in June which upheld Southern Highlands provincial governor William Powi’s election triggered a rampage by protesters who torched an airplane, courthouse and the governor’s residence.

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Kramer has filed a similar complaint with the Ombudsman Commission.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Village on the broken mountain – the plight of PNG’s quake-hit Highlands

Special report by Johnny Blades of RNZ Pacific

“We have no home, our village is devastated, therefore I have to move my people to another location.”

The words of the village leader from a remote earthquake-affected village in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands region had an unmistakable desperation.

LISTEN: More on Dateline Pacific (duration 6m40s)

Richard Don’s Yalanda village in Nipa-Kutubu district of Southern Highlands province was largely ruined in February’s magnitude 7.5 quake in the region.

We met him at the Moro airfield near Lake Kutubu. My colleague Koroi Hawkins and I had cadged a couple of seats on a helicopter used by the team leading PNG’s earthquake relief effort.

The chopper was flying around the quake-affected region, offering us startling views of collapsed mountainsides and deformed valleys. The quake and its significant aftershocks had caused many major landslides and landslips.

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The slides and slips had taken out a number of villages, and destroyed countless structures. The disaster is estimated to have killed at least 180 people, although in a remote region like this, nobody can give an exact figure.

Richard Don … six people from his Yalanda village died in the earthquake. Image: Koroi Hawkins/RNZ Pacific

Badly isolated
When we picked him up at Moro, Richard Don told us that six people from his village had died in the disaster. The village, he explained, was now badly isolated as the main road and bridge which led to Yalanda’s general area had been cut off.

It wasn’t until we flew in with him to the remaining part of Yalanda village, perched as it is on the top of a small mountain, that the precariousness of this community’s position became clear.

The landslips which undermined the flanks of the village had taken huts, foot bridges and food gardens. Homes were collapsed or teetering on the hillside.

We walked up to the top, the village square, where dozens of villagers assembled, carrying axes and small children. Richard Don introduced us to them and they greeted us warmly. Little pigs and dogs wandered by. The kids who milled around had an almost forlorn look about them.

Don said Yalanda’s villagers, of whom there were 1300 in total, feared another big quake and sought to relocate to another location “where it’s more flatter, more good place, for them to resettle themselves”.

The mountain top village of Yalanda. Image: Koroi Hawkins/RNZ Pacific

“But there are a lot of things to be done, like a road. We require a road network to be completed. I have already given the request to the prime minister.”

PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill visited Yalanda shortly after the initial quake and was aware of the village’s situation.

Basic supplies
The company Oil Search, a well established player in the local oil and gas sector, had given assistance with basic supplies and logistical support.

Don also mentioned that Yalanda had received help from the World Food Programme, the Red Cross and governments of Australia and New Zealand.

The team led by PNG’s Emergency Controller, Dr Bill Hamblin, has been helping co-ordinate relief in the region and had distributed many re-starter kits to affected communities to help them move gradually into recovery phase. However, villages like Yalanda were not easy to get to.

The village leader indicated the Yalanda community was aware that its request for infrastructure assistance, and help in relocating, would take time to process.

They had already begun clearing trees and establishing food gardens at a new village base at nearby Endela. A few people had already set up temporary, crude huts to live in at this base.

Other villagers had gone to stay at a care centre several kilometres away in Baguale. But around 800 remain in and around this desolate mountain village.

I spoke to a local pastor who conveyed in Tok Pisin (PNG language, or at least his community’s variation of it) how the Yalanda people had lived on this beautiful mountain for centuries, and that moving away would cause great sadness.

Village ‘bagarup’
But a young woman called Ruth Jeff told us in no uncertain terms how relocation was inevitable, because everything about the village was now broken, or in Tok Pisin “bagarup”.

“Bridge bagarap, road bagarap, house bagarap, haus-sik (medical hut) bagarap, garden bagarap. Children feel sick, feel worried, shocked,” she said, indicating the villagers had much work to do to re-establish their homes.

Richard Don presented us with a ten-page report detailing Yalanda’s situation, their relocation plans, request for help and description of assistance required, including items such as water tanks, tarpaulins and ‘spiritual development’.

The villagers we met were effusive in their gratitude for the help they’d received so far. A United Nations consultant who had flown with us in the helicopter was thrilled to find a wrapper for a World Food Programme muesli bar to take back with him as evidence that their assistance had, in this case, reached its target.

Yet the Yalanda community was struggling with food and medical shortages. They were also in desperate need of water tanks and tarpaulins among other relief items.

“My village, my people, I’m very worried, we need to have that road,” Richard Don noted.

“We’ve run out of food. We made a garden, but that can’t be harvest within a month or two. So at the moment we’re very hungry now, and most of the people are really suffering.”

Pilot anxious
The time to leave rolled around quickly. The pilot was looking anxious for us to leave, as we needed to fly back to Mt Hagen before the weather packed in.

As we got in the chopper, dozens of villagers sat on the hilltop, smiling and waving at us. The visit had served as little more than a quick situation update for the relief team representative. Still, the locals seemed grateful for the opportunity to get word out about their plight.

They kept waving as we ascended. The chopper whipped up dirt and debris, trees thrashed around dramatically, and a pig ran away frantically across the village square.
The earthquake disaster has left many Highlanders facing an uncertain future.

I could still see the villagers waving as we flew off and away, until they faded like dots into the brown and green of the mountain.

Johnny Blades and Koroi Hawkins of RNZ Pacific recently travelled to Papua New Guinea for a series of special reports. This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s publishing partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Mendi mayhem destroyed 42,000 vaccine shots for PNG children

The blazing Air Niugini Link PNG aircraft at Mendi airport. Image: EMTV News

By Sally Pokiton in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s mayhem in the Southern Highlands capital of Mendi earlier this month caused destruction of 42,000 vaccine innoculations meant for children aged under 5.

The innoculations were ruined when the Air Niugini Dash 8 aircraft was set alight at Mendi airport.

A disgusted Emergency Controller of the Emergency Disaster Restoration Team, Dr Bill Hamblin, said the rampage also saw supplies stored in two warehouse in Mendi looted.

“Not only were supplies stolen up there and resold on the streets, but the plane that was destroyed was carrying vaccines for under 5-year-old children – 42,000 vaccines destroyed,” he said.

“Now we have no replacement for those in the country where UNICEF is trying to replace those at the moment.

“The people who do those sorts of acts don’t belong in our society, they belong behind bars,” Dr Hamblin said.

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“I’ m looking forward to the arrest of those people and that they get to see the full force of the law.”

He thanked all development partners and countries in the region which supported the Emergency Disaster Restoration Team.

“We wholeheartedly thank them for the support they’ve put in, without them, the scale of disaster would have been much worse, people could have died needlessly,” Dr Hamblin added.

Sally Pokiton is a reporter for Loop PNG.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Uneasy calm in PNG’s Highlands as O’Neill sends in massive force

PNG soldiers in action in the Highlands … quelling the unrest. Image: PNG Mine Watch

BRIEFING: By Keith Jackson

This week turned out to be one of those only too frequent turbulent periods in Papua New Guinea when you never know what’s going to happen and, for long periods, who might be in charge.

And the week ended with the deployment of half of the PNG Defence Force’s ground troops to the region as the government has clearly decided to crush for once and for all a well armed, if disorganised, blend of angry landowner, disaffected tribal and criminal elements.

First angry supporters of losing candidates in last year’s contentious national elections set alight an Air Niugini aircraft and burned down court buildings and the governor’s residence in the Southern Highlands capital of Mendi.

READ MORE: ‘Those of you who condemned the actions of the people of Southern Highlands in Mendi should have been more scared about the judiciary being compromised’

The blazing Air Niugini Link PNG aircraft at Mendi airport. Image: EMTV News

The entire nation watched attentively as for some days Prime Minister Peter O’Neill seemed to be reluctant to visit his troubled home area and use his authority to placate people whose aggression had reached boilover point.

Fortunately, in this incident there were no deaths recorded and just a few injuries.

-Partners-

O’Neill eventually flew to Mendi, touching fingers with some of his people through the mesh of a safety fence before flying out to Beijing where the action was more benign but could ultimately turn out to be just as precarious for a stable South Pacific.

Then more violence erupted in neighbouring Hela province where landowners protesting about the non-payment of gas royalties by the PNG government set fire to equipment and blockading and airstrip and roads leading to the major resource project operated by ExxonMobil.

Pipeline project damaged
ExxonMobil said heavy equipment had been damaged at its Angore gas pipeline construction project and the impact of the equipment damage on the project’s schedule of work was being assessed.

As the noted commentator Martyn Namorong put it: “While PNG’s prime minister is wined and dined in Beijing, landowners destroy ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG assets in Hela Province. Shows how out of touch the ruling class are.”

By now the PNG government had declared a state of emergency and begun to deploy the first of 440 Papua New Guinea Defence Force troops to the distressed region.

This is a huge number of troops for a PNG operation and is reminiscent of the then government’s response to the Bougainville crisis of the 1990s when PNG soldiers were overcome by guerrilla and irregular forces of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and forced into a humiliating and costly retreat.

Their commander, Brigadier-General Gilbert Toropo, was confident his soldiers would restore the rule of law.

“We will only use minimum force to contain the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel tried to reassure landowners saying the government was working to release royalties from the LNG project but court disputes were holding up the release of funds.

Too many excuses
But landowners have heard too many excuses in the past and this one was unlikely to provide much comfort.

By yesterday, Mendi police commander Chief Inspector Gideon Kauke was able to say the town was operating normally with a 6am-6pm curfew in place.

“Police are working around the clock to collect the names of criminals who were involved in burning down of Link PNG DHC-8 plane and the buildings,” Kauke said.

In Tari, tribal hostilities were also reported to have quietened down. Tari had been the focal point for deadly tribal fighting with about 20 people reported killed since March in and around the town.

But the police commander there, Thomas Levongo, said there was no guarantee fighting would not break out again.

“You know Tari, expect the unexpected. So now at the moment it’s quiet but I don’t know, anything could happen any time.”

Chris Overland comments:
The 440 PNGDF members deployed to Mendi represent a full battalion of troops or about 50 percent of all PNGDF land forces.

This is, on the face of it, an extraordinary response by the government. Presumably, there is little confidence that the RPNGC (police) can handle the situation, possibly because it is out gunned in this case.

Moving such a large number of troops into the area is fraught with risk. While their rules of engagement aim to minimise the risk of conflict, it will only take one idiot on either side to open fire to ignite a conflagration.

Let us hope that the leadership on each side is wise enough and strong enough to prevent this.

Keith Jackson is the editor and publisher of the independent Noosa-based PNG Attitude website.


Video footage of Southern Highlands landowners protesting over the suspension of the provincial government by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government. Video: Tonny Maben/Cafe Pacific

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Former military chief warns PNG soldiers could be ‘outgunned’

A deadly MAG 58 Model 60-20 machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck in the Southern Highlands. Image: This Land, My Country blog

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A former Papua New Guinea military commander has warned that he is “concerned, if not frightened” that the PNG Defence Force may be deploying police and soldiers in the troubled Southern Highlands province facing a deadly weapon.

Ex-Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok , a former commander of the PNGDF who arrested mercenaries deployed by the Sir Julius Chan government for the Bougainville war in the so-called Sandline crisis in 1997, has made his views known in independent media.

In an item published by PNG Attitude and EMTV journalist Scott Waide’s blog, Singirok described Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government response to last week’s Mendi riots as a “premature state of emergency” and a “cheap, reckless and knee-jerk option”.

His comments have come at a time when the nation has been shocked by the display of high powered assault weapons by protesters since last week’s Mendi rioting.

It is clear that the government’s guns amnesty last year did little to encourage people to surrender their weapons, reports Loop PNG.

Defence Minister Solan Mirisim said that talks of weapons surrender or disposal would be part of discussions as leaders continued to discuss solutions to the Southern Highlands unrest.

-Partners-

Deadly weapon
Jerry Singirok wrote about his fears of how police and soldiers may be pitted against the MAG 58 Model 60-20 machine gun which he described as one of the most robust, deadly and effective weapons of its type ever manufactured.

The MAG 58 Model 60-20 machine gun … “robust, deadly and effective”. Image: My Land, My Country blog

He added:

“It is an air cooled, piston and gas operated weapon manufactured in the US and Belgium that uses a 7.62mm NATO belt-fed round and can effectively engage targets from 200-800 meters and – in open country – up a kilometre.

“In 1996, after trials, the PNG Defence Force under my command purchased them.

“Then, a few years ago, some went missing. I have recently seen photographs of them on social media.

“They have been installed on cabin-top trucks in the Southern Highlands province.

Ready for the fight
“I am very concerned, if not frightened, that the PNG government is deploying police and soldiers to the Southern Highlands who are likely to come face to face with the MAG 58.

“A premature state of emergency in the face of this combat power appears to be a cheap, reckless and a knee-jerk option by the government.

Machine guns mounted on a cabin-top truck in the Southern Highlands. Image: PNGAttitude

“In 1989, the then PNG government reacted to a security situation on Bougainville similar to Mendi today which brought PNG to its knees for ten years.

“A solid province was depleted of it minerals for that period and denied a generation of the blessings they would have brought.

“This seems to be yet another irresponsible decision along a similar path.

“How can the government sustain the PNGDF at a prolonged high level and intense military operation if it has not invested in air mobility and cannot buy the most basic uniforms, boots, field gear, ammunition, rations, fuel and so on.

“The country is stuck and doomed.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Mendi community leaders welcome emergency state in PNG ‘wake up call’

Southern Highlands community leaders talk about the post-election crisis in their province. Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Community leaders from the troubled Southern Highlands province have welcomed the Papua New government’s decision to declare a State of Emergency and plans to suspend the provincial government.

Speaking in Port Moresby, they urged political leaders to visit the province and talk to people, reports EMTV News.

They also apologised for the violence that has drawn concerns and criticisms by all levels of society.

In other developments yesterday:

  • Prime Minister Peter O’Neill clarified that Cabinet did not have the power to suspend any provincial government, reports Loop PNG. He said this would be a parliamentary decision.
  • Provincial police commander Chief Superintendent Joseph Tondop has urged all political leaders from Southern Highlands province to return home and unite with their people to apologise to Air Niugini, the judiciary and the country.
  • Acting Public Solicitor Lesley Mamu said the rioting was a “wakeup call” for those in the law sector to assess the effectiveness of the procedures, approaches, and systems they were using.
  • Writing in PNG Blogs, Opposition Leader Don Polye said he condemned the destruction of state property but the solution to the situation in Mendi or elsewhere was not through “emotions and blaming each other”.

PNG Defence Force troops in the Southern Highlands after the Mendi rioting last week. Image: PNG Blogs

Angry march
Following reports of the suspension of the Southern Highlands government, angry supporters aggressively showed their disapproval by marching through Nipa with weapons and placards, demanding that the prime minister lift it, reports Loop PNG.

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But it seems there has been a misunderstanding as Prime Minister O’Neill said the National Executive Committee (NEC) did not have that power.

He said newspaper reports were “pre-emptive”, meaning they were anticipating the move to suspend the Southern Highlands provincial government.

Chief Superintendent Joseph Tondop said it was time to apologise to the country as leaders of the province joined hands with their people in remorse. This would also provide a venue for reconciliation, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

Tondop said the public apology was due for the burning of Air Niugini Dash 8 aircraft, the courthouse and the governor’s residence last Thursday.

Meanwhile, security operations for the Southern Highlands State of Emergency started yesterday.

Soldiers and police personnel started patrols along road links into Mendi and the National Highway as well as providing security for government assets.

Mendi town quiet
Mendi town was unusually quiet as most shops and the Bank South Pacific remained closed.

Chief Supt Tondop visited the hospital and assured staff that they were safe, urging them to continue to provide services.

Acting Public Solicitor Lesley Mamu said: “It calls for us to sit together and gather our minds to start looking at improving the systems so that we find a way out this scenario and bring back rule of law to its position; currently rule of law is trampled upon and tarnished and it’s a concern.”

Mamu said the upcoming Law and Justice Summit in Lae, Morobe Province, next month would provide an opportune platform to address this concern, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

“It will bring together all the law offices and all the participants in the justice administration of this country to try to find a way forward in fighting crime and crime prevention,” he said.

Rioting ‘tainted PNG image’
The rule of law which was a concept embraced in “civilised and orderly societies” such as PNG also requires respecting agencies that were established by the laws of this country, Mamu said.

The rioting had tainted the nation’s image, he added.

Opposition Leader Don Polye said the solution was to “analyse and dig out the root cause of such unprecedented insanity in Mendi”.

“The need to root out the main cause of such a chaotic situation must be the National cry,” he wrote in PNG Blogs.

“Applying the security forces against the civilians is not a panacea. Deploying security to appease volatility is good but only a temporary and band aid solution.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG troops arrive in Mendi – PM and politicians apologise for riot ‘distress’

Southern Highlands protesters declare “No Southern Highlands government, then no PNG gas project or government services”. Image: Freeze frame from social media video by Sedrick Ranpi

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

More than 100 Papua New Guinea soldiers from Taurama Barracks First Royal Pacific Islands Regiment arrived in the Southern Highlands capital of Mendi at the weekend for the state of emergency operation which takes force from today.

Political leaders from the Southern Highlands – including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who is from the province – apologised to the nation for the “distress” caused by rioting and destruction of state property last week, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

Video clips circulating in PNG social media at the weekend show armed Southern Highlanders, some with assault rifles, challenging the government and threatening the massive PNG liquefied gas pipeline project in the province.

Some protest placards say “No SHPG then * no PNGLN *no Govt servc”, referring to the suspension of the Southern Highlands provincial government and the appointment by Port Moresby of an acting provincial administrator.

A 24-hour deadline was given by the protesters but it was unclear what their demands were or when the deadline would expire.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and leaders of the Southern Highlands province, including election petitioners for the governor’s seat, apologised over the distress, upheaval and destruction of state property in last week’s rioting.

-Partners-

Petitioner Joe Kobol met with Prime Minister O’Neill and Southern Highlands leaders with Enga Governor Peter Ipatas and other stakeholders of the province to apologise to the nation and iron out all issues surrounding the recent events.

‘Normalcy’ being restored
O’Neill told the Post-Courier in an interview that “normalcy” was now being restored, saying that all leaders had agreed that an independent provincial administrator would be appointed to maintain balance and independence of the operation of the province.

“All the leaders of Southern Highlands have met, including Joe Kobol and Pastor Bernard, who also contested the governor’s seat, and we have discussed issues that have caused the burning of state properties because of a court decision last week,” he said.

“Normalcy is being restored in the province and today we want to apologise to Papua New Guinea for the recent events that had taken place, mainly out of frustration,” he said.

“The leaders and I want to express and apologise for the distress caused. Our country has always enjoyed the peaceful resolution of the leaders.

“I also want to thank Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas, one of our senior statesmen, who is also here with us and I also want to thank Joe Kobol and Pastor Bernard, who are here to apologise and discuss the way forward,” O’Neill said.

The prime minister added that all the leaders had agreed for Thomas Eluh to be SOE Controller and that an emergency committee of Parliament would be convened immediately to assess the situation on the administration and the rule of law and order.

Mobile squad reinforcements
The Post-Courier’s Johnny Poiya reports that a number of Highlands-based police mobile squad groups and soldiers are also in Mendi town strengthening the number of security forces for the operation.

SOE controller Thomas Eluh is expected to arrive from Port Moresby today to the town where he left couple of months ago when he was removed as acting provincial administrator.

Provincial police commander Chief Superintendent Joseph Tondop, joint task force commander Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Todick and senior security officers for the emergency operations met yesterday and discussed their operational plans.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Frustrated PNG tribesmen capture 2 policemen – seize vehicles, weapons

Southern Highlands tribesmen show off seized police vehicle and assault rifles. Image: EMTV News Facebook

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Two Papua New Guinean police vehicles travelling from Hagen to Hela in the Highlands after servicing were fired on today in a Highlands attack, with one vehicle being seized and two policemen taken captive, report local media.

The Tari-based MS9 vehicles were shot at this morning at Tindom Hill, Semin village, reports the EMTV News Facebook page.

Loop PNG also reports the attack, saying it was carried out by “disgruntled Nipa locals”.

READ MORE: Mendi in chaos after renewed political violence erupts

A seized PNG police vehicle at Semin village, Southern Highlands. Image: EMTV News Facebook

But the news website also quoted regional police chief Gideon Kauke as saying the policemen were “rescued by another unit” while their weapons and vehicles had been removed.

Kauke said the police were “regrouping” and deciding on the next course of action.

-Partners-

EMTV News said the first vehicle, driven by the MS9 commander, escaped with a flat tyre. The second vehicle was driven by two other police officers and three assault rifles had been seized.

Hela police chief Martin Lakari had appealed to Southern Highlands people to release the officers and the state vehicles.

Deputy Police Commissioner Operations Jim Andrews confirmed police were holding talks with locals to negotiate the return of vehicles and weapons.

Loop PNG reported the tribesmen were upset over Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government decision on Friday to suspend the Southern Highlands provincial government following rioting in Mendi on Thursday.

Asia Pacific Report republishes EMTV News content with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

O’Neill imposes PNG curfew, vows arrests in wake of Mendi torchings

Mendi’s courthouse was among two buildings set ablaze by the protesters over an unsuccessful appeal over last year’s general election. Image: Scott Waide/EMTV News

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Papua New Guinea authorities have imposed a 6pm to 6am curfew in the Southern Highlands provincial capital of Mendi to prevent further violence.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has vowed that political leaders who are alleged to be behind the violence in which an Air Niugini aircraft at Mendi airport and the courthouse were set ablaze and destroyed yesterday will be arrested.

He said the culprits would be arrested and charged within a 21-day period, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

The blazing Air Niugini Link PNG aircraft at Mendi airport. Image: EMTV News

O’Neill announced this today after the National Executive Council decided to declare a state of emergency in Mendi.

Former Southern Highlands Provincial Administrator Thomas Eluh has been appointed SOE Controller.

Additional police and Defence Force personnel will be flown into Mendi to restore law and order.

-Partners-

The riot in Mendi followed a National Court decision yesterday dismissing the election petition by Joseph Kobol who had challenged last year’s election result, declaring the incumbent William Powi as Governor.

Plane, buildings set ablaze
An Air Niugini PNGLink Dash 8 aircraft was set on fire at Mendi airport, the District and National Court Building, as well as Governor William Powi’s residence were set alight in the election related violence to hit the Province.

Air Niugini chief executive officer Durani Tahawar said today that the captain and crew of the torched Link PNG Airline had safely arrived in Mount Hagen from Mendi under escort and were now being checked in at a safe Hotel.

“Our HGU staff is with them and we are grateful that they are safe, they shall return tomorrow to Port Moresby,” he said.

Earlier, Prime Minister O’Neill described the actions of the protesters as “disgraceful”, reports EMTV News.

Link PNG has suspended flights to Mendi, Tari and Wapenamanda until further notice.

Asia Pacific Report republishes EMTV News content with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Protesters in PNG’s Highlands torch plane, shut Mendi airport

The destroyed Air Nuigini Dash 8 at Papua New Guinea’s Mendi Airport. Image: Melvin Levongo/RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

Protesters in the Papua New Guinea Southern Highlands town of Mendi have torched a plane and closed the airport.

Earlier, the local police station commander Gideon Kauke had said police were guarding the aircraft to ensure there was no further damage after its tyres had been flattened.

But he said his team of about 10 police could not contain a mob of “uncountable numbers”, particularly after missiles were thrown, forcing them to retreat.

“We were guarding the plane but compared to them we were outnumbered and they came in all directions, all corners. Missiles were thrown, bush knives were thrown,” Kauke said.

Kauke said some of the protesters, who continued to behave “menacingly” in Mendi as their numbers build up, were carrying guns.

He said the protest was in response to a court ruling in Waigani confirming the election of the Southern Highlands Governor William Powi.

-Partners-

Governor Powi’s success in last year’s PNG general election had been challenged by Joseph Kobol and Bernard Peter Kaku.

Kauke said the protestors alleged there was foul play in the court decision.

This RNZ Pacific news item is published under a content sharing agreement with the Pacific Media Centre.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media