SOURCES INCLUDE ABC, AAP, NAMORONG REPORT, TWITTER, PNG ATTITUDE READERS
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1425 Sir Michael's Somare’s daughter and spokeswoman, Betha, has told journalists that Sir Michael ordered Colonel Yaura Sasa to take control of Papua New Guinea's Army.
Ms Somare said a decision was taken by Sir Michael's cabinet to install the retired soldier as head of the defence force, replacing Francis Agwi. "A decision was taken by Somare's cabinet for Col Yaurra Sasa to take charge of the PNGDF," Betha Somare said.
AAP reports that Commander Sasa appears to have taken control of the Murray and Taurama barracks. He has also held two press conferences in the office of arrested Army Commander Agwi.
An army officer at Murray Barracks, who asked not to be named, told AAP the gates had been locked in anticipation of the arrival of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and troops loyal to him.
Police say they are monitoring the situation. Spokesman Dominic Kakas told AAP Commander Sasa may be in control of 20 to 100 troops.
Col Sasa denied reports in the PNG media that Commander Agwi was under "lock and key", telling journalists the veteran soldier who denied Sir Michael's request for a military intervention in December was not under house arrest
1400 We, where were we? Peter Kranz reports:
Colonel Sasa gave a news conference at around 1:00. He claims he is just trying to enforce the Constitution and decision of the Supreme Court and was appointed by Somare yesterday to take control of the PNGDF. Some astute journos asked what he would do if Parliament met and merely confirmed O'Neill as PM (as it already has done). He refused to be drawn, other than saying if it wasn't sorted out he would take 'necessary actions.'
Later deputy prime minister Belden Namah gave a press conference and stated that some of the soldiers involved in the action have been arrested (by the police presumably). He has given Sasa till 4:00 to step down. Meanwhile he has ordered the suspension of Air Niugini flights to Lae, Wewak, Vanimo and Kiunga - all close to Army bases likely to be sympathetic to the Somare faction. This was against the background of reports that some Army units were mobilising and travelling to Port Moresby.
A tambu [close friend] in Moresby in an email to me states "the O’Neill side condemns the action saying that it’s an act out of desperation by the Somare faction. Nothing has eventuated around the Waigani government offices towards the parliament as yet.
“There is now a heavy policy presence around the various MPs houses and offices. The streets are quiet and businesses are normal as usual around Waigani. I think the commotion is around Konedobu and around the Murray Barracks towards 3 Mile and 2 Mile…
“The general election for PNG is just months away and I don’t know when this political impasse will ever stop and the MPs prepare for the election. What a Land of the Unexpected…"
1200 Trouble with one man bands is that the band needs to take a break sometimes. We'll resume here in about two hours. Meanwhile keep the feedback flowing.
1155 Blogger Martyn Namorong reports that Col Yaura Sasa is from Morobe Patrol Post in the Huon Gulf area and is an elder brother of Hon Zibe Sasa, PNG’s Health Minister
1150 The man who has staged a raid on a military barracks in Papua New Guinea has given MPs a seven day deadline to resolve the country's political crisis, or he will resort to force, but claims he is not staging a mutiny or a military takeover. Retired Colonel Yaura Sasa declared himself commander after his soldiers placed Brig Gen Francis Agwi under house arrest.
1130 The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade called on the O'Neill government to quickly resolve the crisis. ''We are concerned about these developments overnight in Port Moresby,'' it said. ''We urge that the situation be resolved as soon as possible, and that the PNGDF chain of command is restored.''
Australia's High Commissioner in Port Moresby, Ian Kemish, spoke earlier today with Mr O'Neill, DFAT said. ''Mr O'Neill told the High Commissioner authorities were taking steps to manage the situation,'' a statement said. ''The Head of the Australian Defence Staff at the High Commission has also talked with Brigadier Agwi. 'We understand that discussions underway within the PNGDF to resolve the matter.”
1125 The leader of the overnight army mutiny has demanded the return of Sir Michael Somare to the prime ministership, reports The Australian newspaper. Colonel Yaura Sasa, a former defence attaché to Indonesia, who arrested the country's military commander Brigadier Francis Agwi and placed him under house arrest, has given the nation's politicians seven days to decide who is in charge of the country.
He says he has taken control of PNG's military following discussions with Brigadier Agwi. ''My task is restoring the integrity and respect of the constitution and the judiciary,'' Colonel Sasa told reporters from the commander's office in Murray Barracks.
''I am now calling on the head of state (Governor General Sir Michael Ogio) to immediately implement Sir Michael's post as prime minister.''
He said Mr O'Neill must recall parliament and gave PNG's 109 MPs a seven-day deadline to ''sort out'' the constitutional mess.
The gates of Murray Barracks have been locked and Mr O'Neill is expected to go to the barracks with troops loyal to him.
There have been no reports of any injuries or gunfire so far, nor any sign of police involvement.
1115 The leader of the mutiny has been identified by commentator Nou Vada as Colonel Yaura Sasa, commanding officer Charlie Company , 1 PIR
1105 Email from Bruce Hill at Radio Australia with a note on an interview worth catching up with: “I spoke to General Singirok about the mutiny about an hour ago. We played the full seven minute interview with him of Phil Kafkaloudes morning program just before 11am, and a 20 second clip from it is currently being played in our news bulletins.
“Gen Singirok says essentially that this is a problem caused by the Somare-O’Neill political standoff, and he’s called on the Speaker to reconvene parliament so the impasse can be dealt with once and for all. He admitted that ethnic loyalties are still clearly a factor within the PNGDF, suggested that more resources are needed to ensure the professionalism and neutrality of the military, and offered his own services as a mediator if required.
“We will be playing the interview again in Pacific Beat at 4pm Melbourne time today.”
1020 Reporter Ruth Rungula from EMTV says US Embassy representatives are at Murray Barracks PNGDF HQ
1015 "The streets of Port Moresby are calm. National TV is broadcasting the Adelaide [India v Australia] test," reports Martyn Namorong. "Eyewitnesses report that Taurama Barracks is swarming with fully armed soldiers."
1010 "At this stage it is not clear if the incident is related to the conflict between Peter O'Neill and Sir Michael Somare over the country's prime ministership, or if it is the work of disgruntled soldiers," the ABC says on its website.
0955 "We in PNG don't want Somare and the Chinese back in power," tweets award-winning blogger Martyn Namorong
0945 The Melbourne Herald Sun reports: “Armed soldiers - some with camouflage paint on their faces - were preventing reporters from entering the Murray Military Barracks this morning, but they are expected to be taken to a commander soon. AAP's reporter at the scene says the soldiers say the barracks are under their ‘operational command’ and there are rumours of a change in command.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has advised Australians to limit travel around Port Moresby today "due to disturbances at Murray and Taurama Barracks".
Martyn Namorong says that the former defence attaché to Indonesia, a Colonel Safa, has now declared himself PNGDF commander.0845 A possible attempted military coup is underway in Papua New Guinea with top military officers reported to be under house arrest. The mutinous troops are operating under the name Operasin Strongim Konstituson [Operation Support the Constitution].
Among other officers, Francis Agwi the Defence Force commander, and Kyrie Eleison, the Commanding Officer of Taurama Barracks, are said to have been placed under house arrest by around 40 soldiers this morning.
Trade union leader Michael Malabag has commented: “Just what is going on now is the evil hand of politicians infiltrating the Defence Force of PNG. I am very concerned about this latest development.”
Radio Australia says supporters of former prime minister Sir Michael Somare are believed to have staged the raid on Murray Barracks early in the day.
A report just in from the ABC's PNG correspondent Liam Fox says: “At about 3:00am today a group of between 12 and 20 soldiers are believed to have raided the defence force headquarters at Murray Military Barracks and placed the head of the army, Brigadier General Francis Agwi, under house arrest.
“The ABC understands that a new commander has been sworn in. The raid on the barracks is believed to have been peaceful.”
Eyewitness accounts from readers can be sent here. Comments from readers are also welcome [below]
Weapons have been released and orders given for the O'Neill/Namah cabinet and police commissioner Kulunga to be arrested.
An unnamed sources is quoted as saying: “We are now under military edict. Anyone resisting arrest will be shot. Orders have been issued to that effect.”