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Violent riots in PNG leave 16 people dead, as MP calls for PM James Marape to step down

(ABC) -- Sixteen people have died in violent riots in Papua New Guinea after some residents took advantage of police being on strike on Wednesday to set shops and businesses alight in the capital.
Nine people died in the country’s capital of Port Moresby while a further seven were killed in Lae, PNG’s second largest city, according to an update from Lae Metro Command.
Paramedics responded to multiple call-outs on Wednesday night involving severe burns and gunshot wounds.

James Marape is under pressure after a deadly night of riots and looting in his nation’s capital. 
   --Photo ABC

Local security services described the rioting overnight as total anarchy.
Videos of the unrest show warehouses engulfed in flames and large crowds of people engaging in looting and rioting.
On Wednesday, police, defence and other public servants held a demonstration at Parliament House over a payroll issue. Police officers stood down at 10am local time as part of the action.
But it soon escalated into a dramatic security situation as hundreds of residents took advantage of police being off duty to flood the streets, setting shops and businesses in the capital alight.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape on Thursday issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over the unrest and urging citizens to “prioritise peace and normalcy.
At the press conference he explained the capital was “under stress and duress” on Wednesday after pay-related issues involving public servants were brought to the attention of the government.
“As a result, the absence of police presence led to riots and looting in certain parts of our city,” he said.
The events in the capital appeared to have a ripple effect on other parts of the country, with Mr Marape acknowledging that it was “unfortunate that other centres are trying to copy what happened in Port Moresby”.
“I appeal to people in these centres to realise that this is our country, and we have to take ownership of it,” he said.
180 police flying into Port Moresby
The escalation prompted the country’s national cabinet to authorise defence personnel “to assist police [to] restore order in the city”, according to a statement from Mr Marape.
One hundred and eighty additional police are flying into Port Moresby on Thursday as police and defence try and regain control.
“[The] situation report as of this morning shows tension in the city has subsided,” Mr Marape said.
The prime minister said economic times were tough and “such lawlessness does not help”.
He “encouraged all our citizens to step up and give respect to your country”.
“Yesterday did happen, we acknowledge, we look into how we can correct [that], we look into how we will bring responsible people to face the full arm of the law.
“As the National Security Advisory Committee meets, they will recommend to the National Security Council certain actions to take.
“The National Security Council will be convening, and will also look into recommendations … and then recommendations will be presented to cabinet later today.”
He said he would announce to the country “certain measures we will take” and would “look at the state of emergency arrangements in the city and urban areas”.
Meanwhile, local business owners are taking stock of the damage, with some facing extraordinary repair bills.
“I want to offer some apologies to businesses that were lost, it was not your doing but in the hands of civil disorder,” Mr Marape said.
“Your government will look into some relief measures to help business after the losses they suffered.”
National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop has referred to Wednesday’s unrest as a sad and sombre day.

(Latest Update January 12, 2024)

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