PORT MORESBY - There were reports of gunshots and looting last night after Papua New Guinean police and other security personnel demanded the payment of allowances they say they are owed for providing security at the APEC leaders’ summit.
The protests began yesterday morning at parliament house, the precincts of which were flooded by many police vehicles and hundreds of police, some armed.
Protesters invaded parliament, causing considerable damage and assaulting staff, throwing one into a fountain.
But tensions escalated during the afternoon and there were disturbing reports of women heading home after work being pulled off PMVs and threatened with knives.
ABC correspondent Natalie Whiting and PNG Attitude contributors told of looting and gunshots in many parts of the city.
Radio New Zealand said earlier in the day that police were demanding to speak with prime minister Peter O’Neill and APEC minister Justin Tkatchencko about the extra allowances they were owed.
“You guys have got money to purchase Maserati cars but we are asking for our allowance, so that’s the situation currently at the moment,” RNZ reported a police officer saying.
Photographs circulated on social media showing damage at parliament including broken glass windows and doors for which PNG police were said to be responsible.
Opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer’s Facebook page showed hallways and lobbies that had been trashed and an image of startled shadow ministers whose meeting was interrupted.
Last night there were no reports of military involvement in the protest - whether defending government facilities or joining the police rampage.
It was rumoured that some vehicles purchased for APEC had been impounded by protesters including Hilux, Fortuna, Prados, Mahindras and perhaps one or two Maseratis.
One observer said, "This is a serious situation that must be settled quickly by the government."
"What we care to know is when teachers, health workers and other civil servants getting paid their wages not to mention medical supplies reaching us.
"Allowances are the least of our problems. Shame."