Port Moresby―Papua New Guinea police and soldiers stormed the country’s parliament Tuesday, assaulting staff, smashing windows and demanding unpaid APEC bonuses just days after the international summit wrapped up, police and witnesses said.
The impoverished Pacific nation had rolled out the red carpet for visiting world leaders during the two-day conference and bought 40 Maseratis to ferry the dignitaries around.
The officers headed to parliament in the capital Port Moresby to express their dissatisfaction following a meeting with the police commissioner and the police minister over the allowances, PNG MP Bryan Kramer said in a video posted on Facebook.
Kramer said “numerous staff of parliament were assaulted during this confrontation” before the group left the building and gathered outside demanding an answer from the government.
A Facebook video he posted of the scene showed smashed pot plants, photo frames knocked to the floor and broken glass and furniture.
PNG police spokesman Dominic Kakas confirmed the incident and told AFP they were “dealing with it”. He did not yet know how many police and soldiers were involved.
A witness outside parliament told AFP “hundreds of police and troops” had been standing on the building’s front steps complaining that they had not been paid the special APEC duty allowance of 350 kina (US$104).
“The scene outside parliament is very tense. There are dozens of police cars and army vehicles,” the witness said, adding that a nearby hotel was in lockdown and the protesters were blocking traffic. The group later marched down the street towards a nearby stadium.
The chief executive of PNG’s APEC Secretariat Chris Hawkins said the payment would “normally take a week to process at the end of a major event”.
“The meeting ended two days ago and the security operation is now winding down,” he added in a statement to Australian national broadcaster ABC.
“The payment of individual allowances has already commenced and individual security force members should check with their banks as payments are made.”
Some locals in PNG, the poorest member of APEC, had expressed anger with the government’s lavish expense for the summit, which came at a time when the developing nation of eight million people is battling a polio outbreak and the resurgence of malaria while struggling to pay its teachers.