Monday, January 30, 2012

How PNG’s latest political crisis unfolded

From The National
  • Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare appoints a 60-year-old retrenched army colonel, Yaura Sasa, as commander of the country’s Defence Force.
  • In the early hours of last Thursday, Lae-based Sasa, a former military attaché to Indonesia, leads a small group of 30 soldiers to Taurama barracks in Port Moresby which houses the 1st Royal Pacific Islands Regiment where the mutineers detain their own commander, Lt-Col Francis Kari, under ``house arrest”. The group comprised members of the sea element, air transport squadron and recruits from the Goldie River training depot.
  • The group heads to Murray Barracks, home to the Defence Force headquarters about 17km south-east in hired vehicles where they take PNGDF commander Brig-Gen Francis Agwi by surprise in his residence and also placed him under” house arrest”.
  • Sasa installs himself in Agwi’s office and calls a media conference at Murray barracks at 11am where he announces he has been appointed by Sir Michael as head of the Defence Force.
  • Sasa denies it is a military coup, that it is the ``normal process’’ of replacement of a commander by the government. He gives rival prime ministers Sir Michael and Peter O’Neill seven days to implement the Supreme Court’s orders re-instating Sir Michael as prime minister or he will be forced to take actions to uphold the Constitution.
  • Air Niugini announces it has suspended flights to centres with military camps – Wewak in East Sepik, Lae (Morobe), Vanimo (West Sepik) and Kiunga (Western). Australian prime minister calls on the PNG military to stay out of politics. “Australia needed a politically stable and economically successful neighbour so it was critical the situation be resolved as soon as possible with the PNG Defence Force chain of command,” Julia Gillard said.
  • Senior military commanders and officers snub a summons by Sasa to attend a briefing and their lack of support signals the end of Sasa’s grab for power.
  • At about 2pm, shots are fired at military police personnel who retaliated and arrested 15 men belonging to Sasa’s group.
  • After negotiations, PNG Defence Force chief of staff Col Tom Ur takes control of the barracks and disbands Sasa’s group allowing Agwi to resume command. The mutiny is over after about 12 hours.
  • A small group of Sasa’s men remain at Taurama barracks where they have been demanding a full pardon for their actions.
  • Sasa is arrested on Saturday and appeared in court yesterday on mutiny charges, police say. Sasa was spotted by chance at a lodge away from the Taurama barracks, where his supporters have been holed up with weapons since the failed mutiny. He will be held at Bomana prison outside Port Moresby pending his court appearance next month.

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