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O’Neill survives for now

Financial woes, legal wrangles, public protests mount against PNG leader

IT has been a turbulent month in Papua New Guinea as students from four universities boycotted class and demanded for the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, to step down over corruption allegations and handling of the economy. Chief among the two key concerns has been the protection of the integrity of the Prime Minister’s office.

Students echoed general public concerns that the Prime Minister, who still has a pending warrant of arrest, related to alleged authorisation of payments to a PNG law firm, should step down and turn himself in for questioning.

The unrest began a month ago, after a series of high-profile arrests by the country’s Police Fraud and anti Corruption squad headed by veteran detective, Mathew Damaru. A senior member of the PNG judiciary, Justice Sir Bernard Sakora, was arrested followed by the Prime Minister’s lawyer, Tiffany Twivey.

A day later, Justice Minister, Ano Pala was arrested and brought in for questioning. Within days of the arrests, a chain of events occurred drawing public outrage particularly on social media. Police Commissioner, Gary Baki, suspended Mathew Damaru and members of the Fraud Squad. Then, members of the Police Special Services Division (SSD) barricaded the office and prevented the media from taking pictures at the Fraud Squad office.

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