A group of police officers “stormed” Papua New Guinea’s parliament on Tuesday over unpaid wages, damaging the building and reportedly assaulting staff, only days after international leaders attended a summit in the Pacific island nation.
Security personnel entered the building in the country’s capital Port Moresby after hearing they would not be paid for work done during last week’s APEC Summit, according to Police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas.
“A group of police were disgruntled over allowances and this morning they were misled. They were thinking that they would not be paid their allowances for their security work during the APEC summit,” Kakas told CNN.
“They vented their frustration by breaking glass and destroying items in the entrance to parliament. Police are on the scene now, trying to establish whether assaults have also taken place,” Kakas added.
Bryan Kramer MP posted a video to Facebook in which he alleged that police “stormed parliament over their grievances” and disrupted an opposition party cabinet meeting.
“Numerous staff of parliament were assaulted during this confrontation,” Kramer alleged.
Kakas said that the police needed to confirm if any assaults took place, adding that officers were attempting to impose calm.
A government official said he had left the area, but confirmed there was “damage done to parliament building despite the government having already paid 50% of all their allowances, and the invoice only received today for the remaining amount.”
He said the allowances totaled 10mn kina ($3M).
It was the first time Papua New Guinea (PNG), the least economically developed of the 21 countries in APEC, hosted the summit.
Rampant corruption and high unemployment
The country’s biggest city in terms of population, Port Moresby, is often ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
In June, PNG’s government declared a nine-month state of emergency and sent in the military following intensive violence in the Southern Highlands province (SHP), where rioters looted businesses and torched a government plane and court buildings. One commentator described the situation in parts of the country as close to “civil war.”
Some critics had warned that the meeting of regional leaders could expose systemic issues within PNG and embarrass it in front of the world.
Former PNG Prime Minister Mekere Morauta in July accused the current government of converting the two-day summit into a “cargo cult,” referring to a system of belief in which ancestral spirits are invoked to in the hope of bringing cargoes of food and other goods.
“APEC will not solve PNG’s problems such as the rampant corruption, high unemployment, escalating crime, deteriorating state of health centers and hospitals as well as classrooms, roads, telecommunication and transport services,” he said.
Many were particularly enraged by the government’s purchase of 40 custom-made Maserati cars – which were flown in from Italy – for leaders to use while they were in Port Moresby.
For the first time in its 25-year history, the summit ended Sunday with its leaders failing to agree on a formal joint statement.
All 21 APEC leaders at the annual meeting in Papua New Guinea were in agreement except China, a source within the meeting told CNN.
This story has been updated.