PNG Govt deploys special police team to Hela

2:02 pm on 16 December 2016
Tari, Hela province, Papua New Guinea.

Tari, Hela province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Papua New Guinea's government has agreed to a special police call out operation in Hela Province after the capital Tari was in lockdown again due to more tribal fighting.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill warned the disputes could impact on next year's general elections as well as the operation of important projects in the area.

Hela is the hub of the huge ExxonMobil LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) project.

There has been a surge of deadly tribal clashes in Hela province this year, and provincial police warned of a build-up of high-powered weapons ahead of next year's elections.

The Hela police force was at a loss to stop the clashes due to being down on manpower and lacking logistical support.

In response, Mr O'Neill said police sent to Hela would be given full powers to deal with people who seek to cause trouble.

He said this would include the authority to make immediate arrests of people seeking to initiate violent acts or make threats against government officials or projects in the province.

According to Mr O'Neill, Hela had enormous potential for development and the improvement of service delivery, and that his government wanted to see this take place.

The callout operation has been approved for six months.

Mr O'Neill said the government will be asking ExxonMobil and Oil Search to provide logistical support to assist the security operation.

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