The small resource-rich Pacific nation, which is due to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in November, has long struggled with violence and lawlessness.
The latest outbreak of unrest comes amid ongoing reconstruction efforts following a devastating 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the island’s interior in February this year.
Chief Superintendent Joseph Tondop, the Southern Highlands provincial police commander, told CNN protesters burned an airplane and the local courthouse. Some of the rioters were carrying “small knives and rocks” Tendop said on the phone from Mendi.
“The township is very much tense … there is some law and order right now as we speak,” he said.
Tondop said the country’s defense forces have sent 100 troops to the region and another 100 are on the way, though it’s unclear when they will arrive. No casualties have been reported yet, according to Tondop.
“Everyone here in this province was traumatized by the massive earthquake,” Tondop said. “We were looking to recovery and reconstruction when this man-made disaster happened.”
Tondop said the township of Mendi is slowly getting back to normal. Some key services are open: the hospital is running, but not at full capacity, while some banks and shops remain closed.
“It’s up to the political leaders of this province right now to find a way to go forward.”
The government announced a nine-month state of emergency throughout the province on Friday.
“Police will investigate every agitator, and every person who was involved in the unrest,” O’Neill said.
The move allows the central government to suspend the provincial government during the state of emergency and deploy troops and law enforcement to help quell the unrest.
The rioting is likely to further sow doubts about Papua New Guinea’s ability to host Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which will many of the world’s leaders converge on the country’s capital, Port Moresby.
Prime Minister O’Neill contends his country is ready for the task and defended the decision to host the event amid domestic criticism about its cost.
The country’s remote and rugged terrain has hampered efforts to connect the country and create a favorable investment climate.
Source : Nbcnewyork