A state of emergency has been declared in Papua New Guinea’s capital after at least 15 people were
killed in rioting.
More than 1,000 troops are on standby “to step in wherever necessary”, Prime Minister James Marape
said on Thursday.
Shops and cars were torched and supermarkets looted after police went on strike on Wednesday over a
pay cut the authorities say was a mistake.
The unrest follows wider tensions in the Pacific Island nation over rising costs and high unemployment.
“Breaking the law does not achieve certain outcomes,” Mr Marape said in a national address. He
announced the state of emergency in Port Moresby would last for 14 days.
While most of the violence had been curbed by Wednesday evening, after soldiers were deployed and
police resumed duty, the prime minister acknowledged that the situation was “still tense”.
The Port Moresby General Hospital confirmed eight deaths in the capital, while another seven people
were reported to have died in the city of Lae, PNG’s second largest.
The unrest was triggered after police and other public servants staged a protest strike outside
parliament on Wednesday, after discovering that their wages had been reduced by up to 50% in their
latest pay cheques.
In response, Mr Marape said the pay cut was an error due to a computer glitch – which had deducted up
to $100 (£78) from the pay cheques of public servants. He said the administrative error would be
corrected in next month’s payments.
But this answer was not accepted by many protesters, some of whom then tried to push into the
parliament building – with footage showing people torching a car outside the prime minister’s
compound and overrunning a gate.
Many pointed to claims on social media that the government was raising income taxes, an assertion
denied by the government.