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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape, has issued a resolute commitment to combat “lawlessness” after a tumultuous episode that left 15 individuals dead amid violent riots, where enraged crowds set buildings ablaze and looted shops.

The unrest originated in the capital, Port Moresby, when a coalition of soldiers, police officers, and prison guards initiated protests against the government. The upheaval swiftly spread to Lae, located 300 kilometers north of the capital.

Prime Minister Marape publicly apologized for the turmoil, asserting that such outbursts of “lawlessness” would not be tolerated. Addressing the nation at a news conference, he emphasized the importance of upholding the law, stating, “Breaking the law does not achieve certain outcomes.” Police Commissioner David Manning confirmed the death toll of at least 15, with Port Moresby’s largest hospital treating 25 individuals for gunshot wounds and six for “bush knife” lacerations.

The chaotic scenes in Port Moresby included looters seizing goods amid smashed glass windows, while buildings and cars were set ablaze, generating thick plumes of smoke over the worst-affected areas. The US Embassy reported shots fired near its compound during attempts to disperse looting groups. Concurrently, Beijing lodged a complaint with the Papua New Guinea government as reports emerged of rioters targeting Chinese-owned businesses, resulting in “light injuries” to two Chinese nationals.

Despite the unrest, by Thursday evening, Port Moresby resident Maho Laveil indicated that peace had been largely restored. National Capital District governor Powes Parkop described the incident as an “unprecedented level of strife,” urging an end to the unrest. The protests originated from a pay discrepancy noticed by security forces in the parliament, even though the government swiftly promised to rectify the payroll “glitch.”

This incident underscores the volatile nature of life in Papua New Guinea, grappling with poverty and heightened crime levels. Approximately 40 percent of its nine million citizens live below the poverty line, despite the nation’s wealth in gas, gold, and minerals. Australia, recognizing the challenges, recently signed a security deal with Papua New Guinea, aiming to assist in addressing issues such as arms trafficking, drug smuggling, and tribal violence. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged calm during these challenging times.

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