Papua New Guinea shamed internationally as candidates’ supporters turned the streets of Port Moresby and some surrounding settlements into a battlefield. Eighteen men arrested as police investigations continue
| Asia Pacific Report
AUCKLAND - Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) troops have been directed to patrol the streets of Port Moresby in support of police trying to restore peace in the city.
The deployment followed rioting and machete attacks on civilians across the city triggered by unrest at the general election counting centre in Waigani.
National Capital District police yesterday arrested 18 suspects, described by metropolitan superintendent Gideon Ikumu as “persons of interest”.
“The men are in custody with no charges laid until completion of the investigation by our CID,” Ikumu said.
He reassured the public to remain calm as police reinforced by troops were now out in numbers to carry out patrols and maintain order in the city.
“I hope this doesn’t happen again — our men have been dispatched to areas of concern to monitor and ensure public safety,” Ikumu said.
He said PNGDF soldiers are also assisting police by protecting the counting area at Sir John Guise Stadium.
“This now sees support units assisting regular police to maintain order in Port Moresby,” he said.
Ikumu said ‘opportunists’ were taking advantage of the situation and urged city residents and the general public to be vigilant.
“While police and other security forces are out to ensure order, I call on residents to be mindful when moving around,” he said.
Ikumu also asked election officials to suspend counting until tensions eased in the city.
Rebecca Kuku, a senior reporter with The National newspaper, said Papua New Guinea was “shamed internationally [as] candidates’ supporters turned the streets of Port Moresby into a battlefield.
“Innocent people ran helter-skelter as political supporters wielding bush knives started chasing and slashing people indiscriminately on the streets in front of City Hall on Sunday at about 2.30pm.
“People were seen running into the compound of the nearby Vision City Mega Mall for refuge as the assailants went about slashing their victims who collapsed on the spot.
“The uncivilised electoral violence started at the nearby Sir John Guise Stadium where counting of ballots was in progress for the Moresby Northeast electorate.
“Police said the knife-wielding offenders were supporters of two candidates and at least two were wounded.”