Aftermath of Port Moresby looting, rioting – 14-day state of emergency

Looted, burnt and damaged businesses count the cost in Port Moresby
Looted, burnt and damaged businesses count the cost in Port Moresby after a day of mayhem caused by a police pay dispute strike. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Miriam Zarriga and Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

Fires from the 24-hour spate of looting, rioting and mayhem in Papua New Guinea’s Port Moresby — the worst ever social unrest in the city — have all but subsided into skeletal remains of ash and buildings in National Capital District (NCD).

The smoke has cleared with six members of Parliament resigning from the Pangu Pati-led government, 10 people are dead in in Lae and NCD, 46 are wounded and hospitalised, and multiple people are suffering non-threatening injuries.

The government responded by declaring a State of Emergency in NCD and suspending Police Commissioner David Manning and secretaries of the Department of Finance Sam Penias, Treasury Andrew Oeka, Personnel Management Taies Sansan for 14 days.

Under fire Prime Minister James Marape
Under fire Prime Minister James Marape . . . 14-day suspension of police chief and other top civil servants. Image: PNGPC

The Post-Courier understands there was disagreement on the suspension and that the SOE was not the way forward. However, National Executive Council decided on going ahead with the SOE and suspension.

According to details released by Prime Minister James Marape, cabinet deliberated yesterdy afternoon and in a decision invoking Section 226 of the Constitution a a 14-day SOE was declared in Port Moresby only.

“14 days is the limit of the SOE, any longer period would require Parliament approval,” Marape said.

Meanwhile, according to the details released by Marape, Deputy Commissioner of Police-Special Operations Donald Yamasombi is now acting Police Commissioner and Controller of the country.

“Secretaries for Treasury, Finance and Personnel Management who are suspended for 14 days, their respective deputies are now acting.”

Looted, burnt and damaged businesses count the cost in Port Moresby
Headlines from yesterday’s Asia Pacific Media Network coverage of the Port Moresby rioting. Image: Asia Pacific Report

Prime Minister Marape reiterated his claim that Wednesday’s riots in Port Moresby had been organised, but declined to say they were political, instead saying his government would only be removed on floor of Parliament.

He said that Chief Secretary and others would undertake an investigation of what happened in Port Moresby.

After the rioting . . . Port Moresby back in business
After the rioting . . . confusion as Port Moresby waits to be back in business. Image: PNGPC

In other coverage of the crisis by the weekend edition of the Post-Courier, Claudia Tally reports:

Few shops open
Port Moresby was in confusion yesterday following the aftermath of the worst ever civil disorder as reality sets in leaving people with no shops open to buy food and essentials from.

While the PNG Defence Force and members of the police patrolled the city’s streets in an attempt to restore normalcy many genuine city residents were queued at the only three service stations open to refuel their vehicles in anticipation of the weekend.

A-Mart supermarket at Manu Auto Port was the only shop open within the vicinity of Taurama and Boroko suburbs where angry shoppers crowded around the shop begging for entry which was heavily guarded by PNG Defence Force soldiers.

On Wednesday, more than 20 shops were looted and 8 others burnt leaving the streets of Port Moresby covered in papers and plastics from the items that were looted by hundreds of people who took advantage of the city polices strike over their salaries.

A mother of four who wished to be anonymous was worried where she would buy food for her children over the next couple of weeks as all the shops, she knows have been either looted, burnt or are closed for security reasons.

“I went to a shop at Hanuabada and waited for three hours for it to open to buy my children’s food but unfortunately, it was not open so I came back,” she said.

The Post-Courier's cover stories today after Wedesday's rampage in Port Moresby
The Post-Courier’s cover stories today after Wedesday’s rampage in Port Moresby. Image: PNGPC

‘How are we going to survive’
“If these issues are not resolved, how are we going to survive.

“These shops are our gardens. They are where we get our food from.”

Meanwhile, many tucker boxes and canteens in the city were open today and their prices have sky rocketed only hours after Wednesday’s wild rampage.

For example, at Konedobu a 1kg packet of rice now costs K10 (NZ $4.50) — double the price prior to the looting.

Following the disorder, many clinics were also closed to the public over safety concerns.

Miriam Zarriga, Gorethy Kenneth and Claudia Tally are PNG Post-Courier reporters. Republished with permission.

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