Saturday, May 26, 2012

PNG calls state of emergency in capital


.PAPUA New Guinea MPs have voted to declare a state of emergency in the nation's capital after rogue police officers surrounded Parliament House.
If adopted, the emergency rule would give increased powers to PNG's police commissioner to arrest and detain.
The leader of government business, Moses Maladina, put the motion yesterday at a special sitting of Parliament and it is expected to come into force today.
The government also voted to reject the decision of three Supreme Court judges to reinstate Sir Michael Somare as the nation's leader.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said cabinet would meet last night to prepare advice for Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio, who must approve the state of emergency.
Mr O'Neill said the state of emergency would be extended to trouble spots such as the Southern Highlands and Hela province, site of a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.
''This has never happened in our country since the Sandline crisis of 1996,'' Mr O'Neill told reporters, referring to the splinter group of police who surrounded Parliament House yesterday.
The Sandline affair brought down the government of Sir Julius Chan after he used private military contractors to resolve the Bougainville dispute.
''These actions are of a criminal nature,'' Mr O'Neill said.
''I want to stress here that we will do all our best so that we do not infringe on the rights of citizens.
"The movement of Papua New Guineans must be free and fair, so there will be no obstruction by the police in enforcing that [state of] emergency.''
About 30 police officers blockaded the road to Parliament House with rocks yesterday and said they were refusing to let Mr O'Neill's government hold a special sitting of parliament until after elections, which begin on June 23 and run for two weeks.
The government says the men were loyal to Fred Yakasa, the man appointed police commissioner by Sir Michael Somare in December when the Supreme Court first ruled he should be reinstated as PM.
The men cleared out after speaking with Assistant Police Commissioner Francis Tokura.
''The last thing we wanted was to see bloodshed among our own men,'' Mr Tokura said.
In what is becoming almost standard practice in Port Moresby, the unexpected blockade briefly flashed white-hot when more than 40 heavily armed police set up a staging area around the corner from the splinter group.
After about 20 minutes, however, an officer was heard to shout ''saddle up, we're out of here'' before the armed officers left in a convoy of 15 cars.
About 30 minutes later, the roadblock outside Parliament was lifted.
The incident came after police, led by Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah, on Thursday arrested and charged the nation's Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, with sedition.
At a brief committal hearing in court yesterday, Sir Salamo sat silent as the charges against him were read out. Magistrate Cosmos Bidar charged that Sir Salamo and another judge, Nicholas Kirriwom, conspired ''to conduct a seditious enterprise against the state''.
Sir Salamo was one of the three judges who on Monday ruled that ousted leader Sir Michael Somare was the nation's legitimate prime minister and not Mr O'Neill, who was elected PM by a parliamentary majority last year.
Hearing of the case against Sir Salamo was adjourned to July 25.

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