26 Jan 2012

Sasa denies PNG mutiny, claims to restore constitution

3:47 pm on 26 January 2012

The man claiming to be the new commander of Papua New Guinea's Defence Force denies that he has conducted a mutiny this morning.

Brigadier Yaura Sasa and a group of about 20 soldiers put Brigadier General Francis Agwi under house arrest at Murray Barracks in the latest move linked to the power struggle between two political groups claiming to be government.

Key institutions are siding with Peter O'Neill who took control last August, while the veteran politician Sir Michael Somare insists that last month's Supreme Court ruling restored him as Prime Minister.

Brigadier Sasa says he has been appointed Commander by Sir Michael's government

"It looks as though it's a military coup but it is not a military coup. I'm restoring, I'm intervening to restore the constitution and that means all - that is also the public servants, heads of the departments, statutory bodies and institutions - comply with what (the court has decided). The court has made its decision but nobody seems to be adhering to the court decisions. So what does that mean: the court has no powers now?"

Brigadier Sasa says he has urged both political groups to sort out the issue on the floor of parliament.

The Chief of Staff in Papua New Guinea's Defence Force, Tom Ur, says he doesn't recognise Brigadier Yaura Sasa as the new Commander.

But Captain Ur says Yauru Sasa's faction is small and that he has no legitimacy.

I'm still Chief of Staff and I'm still issuing orders as Chief of Staff. We have only one Commander. If we don't see any legal instruments and all that, we are not taking orders from renegade soldiers. Hopefully they come to their senses and stand down.

Captain Ur says despite the split in the Defence Force, there is no physical standoff and it's business-as-usual at Murray Barracks.