PNG capital on high alert after brutal election violence

Photo: Royal PNG Constabulary

Residents of Papua New Guinea’s capital were told to stay home and troops were deployed to its streets on Monday, after a brutal election-related attack hospitalised two people.

One victim sustained a traumatic brain injury and the second has an injured limb, doctors and police said.

Gunshots were heard elsewhere in the capital, with more violence expected.

“The situation does remain very volatile at this point,” police commissioner David Manning said, as he requested more troops to help his overwhelmed and understaffed force.

“They accepted our request and (took action on) our request for additional manpower,” he said.

About 10,000 police, army and corrections services personnel had already been mobilised for the vote, but they have struggled to maintain control.

Candidates are responsible for the actions of their supporters says Singura

However, PNG police remain vigilant as five suspects have been arrested over the destruction of 31 ballot boxes in Mutzing, Markham, Morobe Province.

Provincial police commander, Superintendent Jacob Singura said that from the five men, four were charged with, “one count of arson, three counts of malicious damage, and three counts of unlawful assault”.

The fifth man was charged with one count each of riot and arson.

PPC Singura said the criminal acts resulted in the suspension of counting for these two electorates.

Singura said the actions taken are criminal in nature and will not be allowed to go unpunished.

“Candidates are responsible for the actions of their supporters and cannot distance themselves from what has happened,” he said.

International concern over voting

Meanwhile, a Commonwealth team observing PNG’s election has expressed concern, urging an “urgent review” of the voting process.

Releasing its interim statement in Port Moresby, the Commonwealth Observer Group said that, in some cases, as many as half of those eligible to vote were reportedly not on the common roll (voter register).

In the interim statement, Chairperson of the Group, former President of Nauru, Baron Waqa, said:

“There was widespread public dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the common roll. We are concerned that this could have disenfranchised high numbers of eligible voters.

“All relevant stakeholders should collaborate in undertaking an urgent review of the 2022 election.”

Meanwhile, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General, Henry Puna has condemned the recent deaths and escalating violence in Papua New Guinea, including in Porgera and Port Moresby, over the course of the 2022 National Election.

Puna said the Forum stands ready to support the government and people of Papua New Guinea in any way it can.

“My heart goes out to the grieving families in one of our largest Pacific nations.

“It is a stark reminder of the fundamental responsibility our Leaders hold to ensure the right to safety and the protection afforded by the rule of law across all our communities, and particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.

Voting is expected to end on 29 July.