January 12, 2024

Papua New Guinea declares state of emergency after 16 killed in rioting

By Lewis Jackson and Alasdair Pal
Updated January 12, 2024 — 2.22pmfirst published at 9.34am
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Soldiers and police patrolled the quiet streets of Port Moresby on Friday morning as people joined long lines for petrol, a day after Papua New Guinea declared a state of emergency in response to a massive outbreak of rioting and violence.

Prime Minister James Marape declared a 14-day state of emergency late on Thursday, suspending several officials and putting more than 1000 soldiers on standby, after a police and public sector protest over pay on Wednesday descended into rioting and looting that killed at least 16 people.

Officials later blamed the pay cut on an administrative glitch.

Within hours, thousands thronged the streets looting and rioting against a backdrop of smoke and burning buildings. A mob also tried to break through the gates outside the prime minister’s office.

The cover of Papua New Guinea daily, the Post-Courier, declares the January 10 riots the “darkest day in our city”.

The city had returned to a “new normal” by Friday morning, according to local St John Ambulance head Matt Cannon.

“We’re expecting the supermarkets that are functioning to reopen today and I’m hearing they have increased security to cater for potentially large numbers of people,” Cannon said.

Things were quiet when Eddie Allo took the bus to work at the Port Moresby General Hospital. Most vehicles on the roads were government-owned and many people were short on fuel because service stations had been closed, he said.

“Everything is at a standstill now,” Allo said by phone. “Not many people are on the street and the police and army are patrolling around the areas on foot. No looting is going on.”


Marape told a press conference he had suspended the chief of police and top bureaucrats in the finance and treasury departments while the government conducts a review into the cause of the riots.

“There was evidence of organised rioting that took place,” he said, adding the review would ensure “we secure democracy, we secure rule of law”.

A man pushes a shopping trolley on the street as crowds leave shops with looted goods amid a state of unrest in Port Moresby on Wednesday.Credit: AFP

Several Chinese citizens were lightly injured, with Chinese owned-stores subjected to vandalism and looting, the Chinese embassy said.

On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the country’s high commission was monitoring the situation.


Police in PNG have struggled with a surge in violent crime over the past year. Marape has said boosting security would help to attract foreign investment in PNG’s gold and copper resources.


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