PNG police probe into Mendi mayhem names four rival political suspects

PNG's police chief David Manning names Mendi suspects
PNG's police chief David Manning has named four rival politicians - Governor William Powi, Joseph Kobol, Peter Nupiri and Bernard Kaku - as suspects in the investigation into the Mendi mayhem. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Miriam Zarriga of the PNG Post-Courier in Port Moresby

Four prominent Papua New Guinean political leaders are on the police radar for their alleged involvement in the Mendi mayhem last week which left one person dead and thousands of kina worth of property burnt to ashes.

Police Commissioner David Manning named the four suspects as sitting Governor William Powi and his rivals Joseph Kobol, Peter Nupiri and Bernard Kaku.

The four men allegedly allowed their supporters to engage in armed conflict with rival candidates and supporters in Mendi, Southern Highlands, over the regional seat in PNG’s general election.

As fighting continues, four other men were arrested in neighbouring Western Highlands Province with thousands of kina in cash and bullets in their possession.

Mount Hagen police, acting on a tip off, arrested the four men who were found to be in possession of K65,400 (NZ$30,000) in cash, and 30 5.56mm rounds along with other offensive weapons.

The men were allegedly on their way to Mendi, when they were intercepted by Mount Hagen police at the back of the WHP police headquarters.

Commissioner Manning said that the men were all from Mendi and their vehicle had also been also impounded at Mount Hagen Police Station.

“I have issued instructions for all Mount Hagen police station police not to allow any visitations,” he said.

“All mobile phones were removed from these four suspects.

‘Enough is enough’
“The suspects were apprehended by the Hagen local Task Force Response Unit just at the back of Mount Hagen Police at around 11.42am on Sunday.

“Enough is enough, we have gone past the stage of negotiations for peace. We are now required to enforce the rule of law, and it starts with the list of candidates. We have credible intelligence and sufficient evidence to link them with the ongoing violence in the town of Mendi and surrounding districts,” Commissioner Manning said.

“Peace negotiations is a short term measure, true lasting peace is when we remove individuals from society and subject them to the rule of law. Only then will we have long lasting peace.

“We will be looking at all facets of the ongoing clashes in Mendi. The source of firearms, ammunition, funding, and any individual or business assets used to support this ongoing clash.”

Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.

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