PNG POLICE STOP PUBLIC EMPLOYEES PROTEST MARCH

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Group planned to protest allowance increases for MPs

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 12, 2009) – The protest march organised by the trade unions against an increase in transport and housing allowance for Members of Parliament will not go ahead.

Police have told the organisers they will not allow the march for fear of breach of public safety.

Commissioner of Police Gari Baki yesterday advised the Public Employees Association (PEA) not to proceed with plans for a protest march to the National Parliament on Thursday.

In a statement released yesterday, he said this was in the interest of public safety, law and order and national security.

Mr. Baki met with PEA president Michael Malabag yesterday morning and advised him not to go ahead with the planned protest march.

He advised the union to explore other options, such as further dialogue and consultation with the National Government, the various parliamentary committees including the SCMC and Department of Personnel Management.

"We have gathered reliable information that opportunists and criminal elements plan on taking advantage of the situation for their own selfish interests.

"The bottom line is neither Mr. Malabag nor I can guarantee a peaceful protest.

"As police commissioner, I will not allow the safety and well-being of the public to be compromised.

"I also believe that we have not exhausted all avenues with regards to this issue and that there is still room for consultation and dialogue between the parties concerned."

But supporters of the march said police were again using lame excuses to deny citizens the right to express their views on the way the Government was managing the affairs of the nation.

"The right to assemble, and share views about the Government, is guaranteed by the Constitution.

"If we continue to use police to deny citizens this right, we are in danger of becoming a police state," a spokesperson said.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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