2 Aug 2006

PNG declares state of emergency in Southern Highlands

2:10 pm on 2 August 2006

It's been confirmed that a state of emergency has been declared in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highland province.

A police official says at least 800 police personnel and a platoon of soldiers will be deployed in the area at the end of this week to restore law and order.

He says the Prime Minister has imposed emergency rule to counter an appalling security situation and the general lack of public order and administration in the region.

The move by the government is the first step towards the suspension of the governor.

The official says curfews could be put in place, along with an amnesty period for the surrender of illegal firearms, many used by gangs supporting local political strongmen.

He also says government controllers would try to restore good administration in the province.

The emergency provisions received strong support in parliament, except from Southern Highlands Governor Hami Yawari who was alone to deny his province was in crisis.

He has been accused of giving cash handouts while public services deteriorated.

The Southern Highlands, which is to supply natural gas for a planned pipeline from PNG to Queensland, is noted for gun violence with one study putting the number of illegal weapons in the province at more than 2,000.