15 killed in Papua New Guinea unrest over rising costs, high unemployment

New Delhi, Jan 11: Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, has been plunged into a state of emergency following a wave of rioting that left at least 15 people dead. Prime Minister James Marape announced the declaration, revealing that over 1,000 troops stand ready to intervene as needed.

The turmoil erupted after police initiated a strike on Wednesday, protesting a pay cut that authorities claim was a mistake. Rampant violence ensued, with shops and cars set ablaze, and supermarkets looted, prompting the Prime Minister to deploy soldiers to restore order.

In a national address, Marape emphasized the importance of upholding the law, declaring a 14-day state of emergency in Port Moresby. While the situation had somewhat stabilized with the deployment of soldiers and the return of police to duty, the Prime Minister acknowledged that tensions remained palpable.

The absence of police presence reportedly emboldened individuals from the outskirts of the capital to engage in widespread looting and destruction. The initial catalyst for the unrest was a protest strike staged by police and other public servants outside parliament after discovering significant reductions, up to 50%, in their latest paychecks. Prime Minister Marape attributed the pay cut to a computer glitch and assured corrective measures in the upcoming payment cycle.

However, discontent persisted among protesters, leading some to attempt to breach the parliament building. Images circulating on social media depicted individuals torching a car outside the prime minister’s compound and breaching a gate.

Marape addressed the misinformation, stating that individuals took advantage of the police’s absence to exploit the situation. The US embassy reported gunfire near its compound. The declaration of a state of emergency reflects the gravity of the situation as Papua New Guinea grapples with the aftermath of unprecedented unrest.

Chinese Embassy Lodges Complaint Amid Unrest in Papua New Guinea

The Chinese embassy has officially filed a complaint with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG), expressing concern over several Chinese businesses being targeted in the recent spate of attacks. According to the embassy’s statement quoted by BBC, the assaults resulted in injuries to two Chinese nationals.

“The Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea has lodged solemn representations with the Papua New Guinea side over the attacks on the Chinese shops,” the statement read.

During an economic downturn marked by increased inflation and unemployment, Prime Minister Marape is facing mounting pressure and public discontent from various sectors.

The ongoing economic challenges in Papua New Guinea have exacerbated social issues, leading to growing inequality, particularly in urban centres like the capital city. The rise in settlements and high crime rates has further fuelled discontent among the populace. Amid this backdrop, the political opposition has been actively pursuing a motion for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Marape, scheduled for February.

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