Port Moresby police chief suspended in latest fallout from PNG riots

NCD police chief Assistant Commissioner Anthony Wagambie
NCD police chief Assistant Commissioner Anthony Wagambie addressing police on Black Wednesday, January 10 . . . suspended for 21 days. Image: The National

The latest victim of last week’s rioting and looting in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby is the city’s top police commander.

National Capital District commander Assistant Commissioner Anthony Wagambie Jr has been suspended for 21 days.

Wagambie’s suspension comes after an internal investigation by the PNG police Internal Affairs Directorate.

Acting Police Commissioner Donald Yamasombi approved the suspension to “facilitate a thorough and impartial investigation”, The National newspaper reported.

“He [Wagambie] will have the opportunity to provide further information to investigators as is required during this [disciplinary] process,” he said.

“This is the first of potentially several more suspensions with the way in which some police personnel conducted themselves during the mayhem.”

The violence broke out in Port Moresby last week on Black Wednesday — January 10 — with shops and businesses set alight after public servants, including police and army personnel, went on strike over a payroll issue.

As many as 22 people died in the violence, which prompted the government to issue a state of emergency.

Last week the PNG Police Commissioner David Manning was suspended alongside the secretaries of Finance, Treasury and the Department of Personnel Management.

When announcing these suspensions last Friday, Prime Minister James Marape said: “it’s not good enough that operating agencies do not get to work properly that has caused us this stress”.

RNZ Pacific’s PNG correspondent Scott Waide said there was strong public support for Wagambie online.

Social media shutdown, warns minister
Meanwhile, PNG’s Telecommunications Minister Timothy Masiu has announced that the government could shut down social media if people misused it during the state of emergency.

Masiu, a former journalist, said there was significant evidence people had spread false information on social media sites leading to the destruction of properties in Port Moresby and around the country.

The Port Courier reports him saying people who engaged in such bogus activity would lose their social media accounts and could face arrest and charges for fomenting violence.

Masiu said discussions on social media that incited violence, destruction, that spread false information or confidential government information, would be closely monitored.

He said national security, public emergency and public safety was critical for a secure nation and a “happy and safe country”.

The government has already revealed the state of emergency rules allow draconian measures such as searches of private homes, property, vehicles and phones by government agents.

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

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