The prime minister of the Pacific nation has declared a nine-month state of emergency. An armed mob had torched a passenger plane and set fire to a local governor's house days earlier.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill declared a nine-month state of emergency in Papa New Guinea's (PNG) Southern Highlands province on Monday. The provincial government was suspended for the duration. The move came after a violent mob went on a rampage of looting and burning last week, setting fire to a passenger plane and burning to the ground the home of the provincial governor.
Folllowing a court decision to dismiss a petition against the 2017 election of provincial governor, William Powi, amid concerns of corruption, the mob burned Powi's home to the ground as well as the local courthouse in the town of Mendi. An aircraft belonging to the national carrier Air Niugini was destroyed at the airport. Images on social media showed the twin-engine turboprop plane on fire, with the fuselage burnt through.
"Normalcy is being restored in the province and today we want to apologize to Papua New Guinea for the recent events that had taken place, mainly out of frustration," the prime minister told the Post Courier newspaper Monday.
"No person is above the law and all involved will face the full force of the law and answer for any crime they have committed," O'Neill added in a statement. "The actions of reckless individuals damaging property in Mendi has disgusted the nation."
'Attack on country's identity'
PNG's civil aviation minister, Alfred Manase, said the airport would remain closed indefinitely, with staff moved to other locations for their safety. "An attack on our national flag carrier is an attack on our identity as a country." Air Niugini said the plane's crew were safe and that it was conducting a full review of what occurred.
Papua New Guinea is home to 7 million people on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, to the east of Indonesia. Many PNG communities are still receiving aid after February's 7.5-magnitude earthquake killed 100 people, testing the finances and capacity of one of the world's poorest countries.
kw/kms (AFP, Reuters)