By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby
Running like a pack of animals, a group of political party supporters in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby were armed with bush knives, iron bars and other weapons as they chased down two men outside the national elections counting centre yesterday afternoon.
They reached the first man, and without a second thought they slashed him outside the Sir John Guise Stadium in Waigani.
Then they reached the second man, he fell, they slashed him without hesitation, and they continued attacking him.
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The third man wasn’t so lucky, he was casually walking by and the mob turned their attention onto him. He put up his hands in a sign of protest. He was attacked, his hand sliced off, he fell and the mob mercilessly slashed him.
Police Commissioner David Manning was disgusted by the turn of events, saying: “How many ways can you report animalistic behaviour?”
The Post-Courier has confirmed that six men were wounded but no deaths were reported.
The video showing these horrific attacks has now caught the attention of everyone. The response has been quick — all makeshift tents belonging to scrutineers, vendors and supporters were removed, burnt and everyone outside the Sir John Guise Indoor Complex were chased away by security personnel.
What was the issue?
What was the issue these men were angry about? It was alleged that the attacks were over nine ballot boxes from ward 6 in Moresby Northeast.
The Post-Courier understands that scrutineers from Moresby Northeast demanded that the counting officials stop nine boxes from ward 6 from being counted and continue to wards 9 and 12 because a candidate was leading.
The scrutineers argued among themselves and the argument was taken outside, where it led to an argument and eventually a fight broke out.
The Post-Courier was at the scene after the video was released and witnessed security personnel removing all makeshift tents along the John Guise Road which passes by the stadium where the election counting is taking place.
For the next 30 minutes — from 3.30pm to 4pm — security personnel entered Vision City gates and checked the area.
More security personnel were outside checking vehicles and removing any remnants of the makeshift tents.
Shots were also fired into the air to disperse crowds that had gathered. It was a tense moment.
Eventually the area was cleared.
Nine suspects arrested with bush knives
Police said that after the slashing of the men, about 30 minutes later, policemen stopped a blue land cruiser and nine suspects were apprehended with five bush knives in their possession.
The nine were taken to the Waigani police station cells and their particulars were taken down by police investigators. Police are now investigating incident.
Meanhile, shots were fired around the Rita Flynn Courts as police also removed and dispersed makeshift tents of scrutineers, supporters and vendors along the Bava road.
According to a police source what happened at SJGS may also happen at other counting centres and thus police are not taking any more chances.
Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.