PNG Police Violently Suppress Protestors Outside Parliament

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O’Neill: Protest organizers are ‘power hungry NGOs’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 27, 2015) – PNG Police acted swiftly and violently to suppress protesters yesterday as they gathered to march to Parliament House to present a petition to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Several protesters suffered injuries and as political events unfolded later in the day, the Opposition announced that it was giving notice to introduce a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.

Parliament sits at 2pm today.

Mr O’Neill told a news conference he remains confident that Government numbers are intact to beat any leadership challenge.

Opposition Leader Don Polye also announced that Oro Governor was the latest to sign the vote of no confidence motion, which carried 11 signatures of MPs.

However, the Speaker’s Office said late yesterday it had not received any notice instruments from the Opposition.

Leader of Government Business, Finance Minister James Marape said it will be business as usual this afternoon for the Government as it introduces the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) Bill and other outstanding legislations, culminating in the National Budget next Tuesday.

The violent behaviour of the police has widespread condemnation, notably from Transparency International which said police are obliged to respect the laws as custodians of the law.

A planned peaceful protest against the Prime Minister yesterday ended prematurely after a couple of youths were bashed up and the crowd dispatched all because of "K5 Police" comment by protesters.

The scene at Unagi Oval in Port Moresby at around 9 am was tense from the very start with police surrounding the oval in an attempt to stop people from joining the protest with organisers who were in the middle of the oval.

NCD Metropolitan Superintendent Ben Turi said he had placed his men to stop the people from illegally staging a public rally because no clearance was given and that the safety of the public and business houses was at risk.

Civil rights activist Noel Anjo however, stood his ground, saying that a court order in September last year restrained police from further infringing his rights to freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and freedom of movement.

He said that court orders allowed him to lawfully organise processions, public meetings, or any other activity of such similar nature.

The police were composed at the beginning but seemed agitated by the constant flow of people walking to the middle of Unagi Oval and police calmly brushed them away.

When three police vehicles were driven towards the group in the middle of the oval, an older activist (name known) with a HD camera was assaulted and his camera smashed in pieces for taking photos of police trying to dispatch the crowd.

Other young men were chased by police who were irritated and provoked by comments thrown at them.

A boy, aged about 15, was beaten up by an officer while holding onto Mr Anjo’s leg, for calling out, "K5 police".

Mr Turi ordered all vehicles off Unagi Oval and told the crowd to disperse as well. Pictures of police swinging punches and kicks at civilians and a broken high quality cannon camera went viral on social media minutes after the incident occurred.

In a media conference after the incident NCD Central Commander, Sylvester Kalaut said police were present at the planned protest to peacefully dispatch the crowds as previous protests in the past without proper clearance given had turned out nasty with public safety and business properties at risk.

"You need to comply with the peace and good order act for approval. The divisional commander or Metropolitan Superintendent does not have the power to give permission to anyone to carry out any peaceful protest or assembly for that matter," Mr Kalaut said.

The activists led by Mr. Anjo said that they will be carrying out a nation wide awareness, going from just social media and taking the petition back to the public.

"All I can say is let’s do it properly and follow the law. Let us all be responsible citizen and respect the rights of other people as well.

"Whilst exercising your rights, you have got to respect others as well. Like wise you have to respect the police officers as well who are exercising their duty," Mr Kalaut said.

NCD Metropolitan Superintendent, Ben Turi, said that the most of bystander at the scene, especially youths, were opportunist waiting to take advantage and were likely to cause chaos, of which protest organisers are unlikely to control. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has described the current protests by non-government organisations as the actions of ‘power hungry NGOs’ are only interested in politics and not the society.

He said the Government was working closely and supporting NGOs that became the fabric and pillars of the society while only a few NGOs running around creating anxiety.

He challenged the NGOs to put out their policies and programs that will help the country’s growth.

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