Southern Highlands govt suspended in PNG state of emergency

The Southern Highlands Provincial Government in Papua New Guinea has been suspended as part of state of emergency provisions.

PNG's national executive council on Friday declared a State of Emergency for the province, and a call-out of the Defence Force in the following unrest in the provincial capital

A curfew has been imposed in Mendi between 6pm to 6am, our correspondent Melvin Levongo said there was also a heavy police presence in town.

He said none of the local politicians have spoken out about the incident and church leaders are trying to help reassure people.

In Mendi on Thursday when supporters of losing election candidates destroyed a commercial aircraft, the local courthouse and other buildings in town.

Police said it was a court decision to dismiss a petition against the provincial governor William Powi's 2017 election win which sparked the rampage.

Mr Powi's residence was burnt down in the unrest.

Prime minister Peter O'Neill said he would oversee the operations of the Southern Highlands Provincial Government on behalf of the National Executive Council.

The provincial government's suspension is for the duration of the state of emergency, nine months.

A provincial administrator, Thomas Eluh, has been appointed to oversee the State of Emergency in Southern Highlands.

As controller of the State of Emergency, Mr Eluh is being invested with powers, duties and functions prescribed by the Constitution and Emergency Acts and Regulations.

"It is important that we place the actions we saw yesterday into context," Mr O'Neill said.

"The ridiculous behaviour by an unruly group is all about local level politics and attempts by failed politicians to vent their anger over their inability to be duly elected."

"If there is any group who thinks they can continue cause trouble, they will find out very quickly that their actions will not be tolerated."

The government has also approved of US$1.8 million in funding to enable the State of Emergency mobilisation immediately.

Among other provisions is the deployment of Police personnel, mobile squad and criminal investigators to the Southern Highlands Province with immediate effect.

Mr O'Neill said he was directing the Commissioner of Police, and the Commander of the PNG Defence Force, in consultation with the Controller, to immediately develop an operational order for the deployment of troops (police and military) to Southern Highlands Province for the SOE. province immediate effect.

Meanwhile, after an Air Niugini, PNGLink Dash 8 aircraft was set on fire at Mendi airport in Thursday's unrest, the airline had suspended flights to the town, as well as Tari and Wapenamanda in neighbouring Hela and Enga provinces.


Photo supplied. Caption: Burnt remains of the Court premises in Mendi