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State of Emergency: New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape Takes Swift Action in the Wake of Violent Demonstrations

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In response to riots sparked by public sector discontent over wage decreases, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape, has declared a state of emergency on Thursday. The immediate suspension of government and police officials ensued as the unrest resulted in the tragic death of 16 people.

The unrest erupted from a demonstration by police and the public sector on Wednesday, protesting a wage decrease attributed to an administrative error. The police reported nine casualties in the capital, Port Moresby, and seven in Lae, a northern region known for its copper and gold mining activities.

During a news conference, Prime Minister Marape announced the suspension of senior officials in the finance and treasury ministries, as well as the chief of police, as part of an inquiry into the causes of the disturbances. Marape emphasized the need to secure democracy and the rule of law, highlighting evidence of organized rioting.

Approximately one thousand military personnel were said to be prepared to quell further protests, as Marape initiated a review to address the root causes of the unrest. While the capital experienced a decrease in violence on Thursday with additional police deployments, tensions remained high.

The US embassy reported a resumption of police duties but cautioned that the relative calm could change rapidly. The Chinese embassy revealed that some Chinese nationals suffered minor injuries during the riots, with theft and vandalism reported at Chinese-owned businesses.

Australian High Commissioner monitoring the situation

The Australian high commissioner, under the watch of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, closely monitored the situation. Although Canberra frequently provides security and law enforcement support to Papua New Guinea, there have been no requests for assistance from the country thus far.

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Papua New Guinean police, grappling with increasing levels of violent crime over the past year, hope to enhance security to attract international capital to the nation’s rich copper and gold reserves. The unrest unfolded after police learned of wage cuts, prompting a strike on Wednesday morning.

While social media posts from the government refuted claims of additional taxes on law enforcement, Prime Minister Marape pledged to rectify any administrative errors contributing to the salary disparities, emphasizing the government’s commitment to addressing the grievances that fueled the violent demonstrations.


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