Extra callout to PNG's Highlands over election violence

6:23 pm on 18 August 2017
Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands.

Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Papua New Guinea's government has approved the callout of additional security forces to the Highlands, where election-related violence lingers.

At least twenty people have died since vote counting began last month in Enga province's capital Wabag.

PNG's election has finished except in one electorate in Southern Highlands, where at least five deaths have been reported over grievances.

The Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has announced the expansion of the Defence Force's callout in Hela Province to prevent unrest in neighbouring Enga and Southern Highlands.

In a statement he said patience had ended with troublemakers in both provinces, signalling a new zero-tolerance approach to law enforcement.

Mr O'Neill didn't elaborate on how many troops would go to Enga and Southern Highlands, but there are already hundreds of combined security forces personnel in both areas.

"The behaviour we are witnessing by small groups is totally unacceptable and is impacting on the lives of men, women and children in these areas," said Mr O'Neill.

"I am issuing a very clear warning to people seeking to cause disruption, that you will be faced with the full effort of our disciplined services, arrested and tried for criminal acts."

The Prime Minister described the violence in these provinces as disappointing considering what he called the relative calm of the recent elections in the Highlands.

"Throughout the campaigning and voting periods we saw a big change of attitudes from previous elections in these areas. It is disappointing that towards the end of vote counting that we are seeing this unruly behaviour."

Mr O'Neill called on community leaders to work with disciplined services, and help to prevent anti-social behaviour in your areas.

"We all have a responsibility for maintaining peaceful communities, and our community leaders have a major role to play and ensuring safety and security."