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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Papua New Guinea parliament stormed over summit pay dispute

There has been anger at the amount spent on hosting the Apec summit in the country.

Security personnel on the back of a lorry wait to be paid at Rita Flynn Netball Centre in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (Jam Morales/AP)
Security personnel on the back of a lorry wait to be paid at Rita Flynn Netball Centre in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (Jam Morales/AP)

By Ciaran McQuillan, Associated Press

Disgruntled police, military and prison guards have stormed Papua New Guinea’s Parliament in a violent pay dispute stemming from an international summit hosted by the impoverished South Pacific island nation over the weekend, a politician said.

Images posted by opposition politician Bryan Kramer on social media showed broken windows, smashed furniture, pictures torn from walls and plants tipped over.

Parliament’s security check point including a metal detector was trashed and doors were destroyed along with their fingerprint-reading locking systems, Mr Kramer said.

He said the protesters had not been paid their promised allowances for their security work at the Pacific Rim leaders’ summit held in Port Moresby, a city described by the World Bank as among the world’s most violent due to high unemployment and brazen criminal gangs known as “raskols”.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an informal press conference at Apec Haus in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting was attended by US Vice President Mike Pence, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and others.

When the protesters tried to enter Parliament, “there was a confrontation between Parliament security and members of the security forces”, Mr Kramer said.

“It erupted into a scuffle, several staff were assaulted as they made their way into Parliament.”

Mr Kramer said he did not see anyone use a weapon in the conflict and he was not aware of any serious injuries, although there were spots of blood throughout the building.

Police and soldiers guard the outside of the Parliament (Bryan Kramer/AP)

Mr Kramer and his opposition colleagues remained in a meeting room within the Parliament building throughout the 30-minute attack.

Following the rampage, more than 100 police, military personnel and prison guards waited outside Parliament demanding to be addressed by the government about their allowances, Mr Kramer said.

But they eventually left the area.

Working police later provided security for parliamentary staff in the building and patrolled surrounding streets.

The violence at Parliament coincided with reports of looting of surrounding businesses, as criminals apparently took advantage of the breakdown in law and order.

US Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at the summit (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The annual Apec summit brought together representatives of 21 nations that account for 60% of the world economy.

What has been called Papua New Guinea’s global coming-out party has caused both pride and discord and underlined the yawning gulf between a small well-educated minority and the poor, who include the 85% of people living in the highlands and other remote areas.

Ahead of the Apec summit, the government was criticised for acquiring a fleet of 40 expensive Maserati cars to ferry the world leaders to meeting sites, but it assured citizens that the vehicles would be sold afterwards.

A VIP terminal costing about 19 million US dollars was added to the city’s airport.

Construction of a building called Apec Haus for the summit was paid for by oil and gas company Oil Search, which operates all of Papua New Guinea’s oil fields, in exchange for tax credits.

“I think the money should have been used to fix our backyard instead of decorating the front porch.

“We have health, education and infrastructure deficiencies that need to be addressed,” activist and writer Martyn Namorong said before the summit.

PA Media

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