Looting breaks out in PNG capital during police and military strike

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Looting in Port Moresby
A protest over unexplained pay deductions to salaries of police, military and correctional services staff has triggered sporadic looting in Port Moresby. Image: RNZ

By Finau Fonua, RNZ Pacific journalist, and Scott Waide, RNZ Pacific PNG correspondent

Shops have been set on fire or looted in parts of Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby as unrest broke out during a police and military strike.

The protest over unexplained pay deductions to salaries of police, military, and correctional services has triggered sporadic looting in Port Moresby.

About 200 Papua New Guinea police and military personnel abandoned work for a day to protest.

At 10am (local time) yesterday, police and military personnel gathered at Port Moresby’s Unagi Oval in protest over what they say are hefty “tax” deductions in the most recent pay period.

According to service members, the deductions over the last fortnight range between US$26 and US$80 (K100 and K300).

The police union demanded answers from the government at the gathering and by 11am, a large group proceeded to Parliament where they demanded answers from the Prime minister and members of the cabinet.

The deductions come as Papua New Guineans experienced a noticeable rise in the cost of goods and services in the last three months.

Working to resolve issue
The Internal Revenue Commissioner released a statement saying that the government was working as quickly as possible to resolve the issue.

Prime Minister James Marape released a statement calling for calm while stating that the deductions were caused by a glitch in the government payroll system.

An earlier RNZ Pacific report said that Assistant Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambie addressed the protesters at Unagi Oval.

“Frustrations boiled over so they got into their vehicles and stormed Parliament . . . they opened the gates and went into Parliament,” reported Scott Waide.

“There was no real resistance to stop them . . . it was a rowdy crowd, the defence minister had attempted to speak to them outside of Parliament before they walked in.”

Police Association president Lowa Tambua demanded an answer about why there had been deductions.

‘Immediate answer’ demand
“We want an immediate answer from the Minister of Police and the Prime Minister,” Tambua said.

“We we’re all caught by surprise . . . come and address my members as to why this has happened.

“Don’t hide between the Parliament House . . . come over here and address our police men and women.”

IRC commissioner-general Sam Koim said “there has been no tax increase” to their salaries.

In a short statement, Koim said: “There was a technical glitch on the Alesco payroll configurations and hence the deductions.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

PNG police and military protesters later "stormed" the Parliament
PNG police and military protesters later “stormed” the Parliament complex in Port Moresby. Image: Ale Myawii/FB/RNZ
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