Pro-Somare police and soldiers takeover Papua New Guinea parliament
Pro-Somare police and PNGDF soldiers manning parliament. Picture courtesy of NBC
Police loyal to Supreme Court-reinstated Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare took over Papua New Guinea’s national parliament this morning in a looming showdown with security forces loyal to the O’Neill government.
Another group of security forces in a convoy of vehicles are gathering at a back road not far from the PNG parliament, it is not known if they are aligned with the Somare or O'Neill camp in a face-off which observers say could turn nasty any minute if the two clashing sides are not immediately brought to the negotiating table.
Selected members of the PNG media fraternity were advised that pro-Somare police moved into Parliament early this morning and have blocked it off to the public and parliamentarians who plan to attend a special session, which rival PM Peter O’Neill called to deal with the Supreme Court’s decision early this week to reinstate Sir Michael as head of government.
“There is now a blockade of parliament underway by troops and policemen loyal to the legitimate government of Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare. This action is in response to two incidents yesterday: (1) assault, intimidation and contempt displayed by Belden Namah, Peter O’Neill and other MPs with armed policemen towards the judiciary, our legal system and our way of government and dispute resolution; (2) the serious and unprovoked assault on superintendent Joseph Tondop and four of his men resulting in the hospitalisation of one with serious injuries,” read the email.
State broadcaster National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) this morning posted pictures of the parliament blockade which showed policemen turning away vehicles trying to enter parliament.
A convoy of vehicles with police and PNGDF soldiers. Picture courtesy of Tokaut Tokstret
PNG Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, who was arrested yesterday by a group of policemen and PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) soldiers led by Mr O’Neill’s deputy Belden Namah, was charged with sedition last night and is expected to appear in court today.
The PNG Chapter of Transparency International (TIPNG) condemned the “invasion” of the court by Mr Namah and members of the PNGDF and police.
“If the reports are correct this raises serious questions as to under what authority the deputy prime minister was acting and under what authority the members of the disciplined forces were being directed to invade the sanctuary of the courts. Today’s display is shameful and unfortunately an inevitable consequence of the failure of all parties including the courts to deal with this matter in a timely way and careful consideration of due process,” TIPNG said in a statement.
However, Mr Namah in response said “enough is enough” as the Chief Justice continued to ignore the powers of the National ExecutiveCouncil (cabinet) and the governor general to suspend him from office.
“The Chief Justice is a threat to national security. He is not an elected leader. He has on many occasions given permanent stay orders toprevent police exercising their constitutional functions. His decisions encroach into Parliament’s powers – he has usurped the powers of the legislature,executive and the governor general. His judgements have been vindictive and have not been behaving like a chief justice but rather a tyrant drunk with power,” he said in a statement.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has appealed to the two rival political camps to restrain themselves and not allow the current developments to detract the country from holding its general election on time.