Security forces tension in PNG capital after policeman killed

2:21 pm on 10 May 2020

Papua New Guinea's police command says it has restored some calm among the force in Port Moresby after a senior officer was killed by off-duty military personnel.

Papua New Guinea police

Papua New Guinea police Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The Commander for Zone Three in the National Capital District, Senior Inspector Andrew Tovere, died at Port Moresby General Hospital yesterday.

According to FM100 News, the night before, Snr Inspector Tovere was allegedly attacked by drunken, off-duty Defence Force personnel when police were responding to reports of the sale of alcohol at a black market.

The attack, which occurred at a settlement adjoining the Police Air Transport Services Unit base, came within hours of the introduction of restrictions on alcohol sale as part of PNG's measures in response to Covid-19.

In response to the attack, angry police officers were seen driving in a convoy around parts of Moresby yesterday with their sirens blaring. Footage has also emerged of police officers firing gunshots into the air at one location.

As tensions escalated, police personnel were urged by their commanders to refrain from carrying out any retaliatory acts against the PNG Defence Force.

The police assistant commissioner Anthony Wagambie told EMTV that some aggrieved officers had engaged in a small confrontation with PNGDF personnel after learning of the death of their colleague.

But he said all officers were ordered back to the Boroko police station where he told them that no one was allowed to enter army barracks.

Mr Wagambie said the PNGDF was working on bringing the perpetrators of the attack to account, and that one suspect had already been identified.

He told media that another officer involved in the attack was on the run, but that the Defence Force would bring him in.

Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers Taurama Barracks, Port Moresby, 2016.

Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers Taurama Barracks, Port Moresby, 2016. Photo: Public Domain

Mr Wagambie added that police have been contained and are back to normal, saying he could not foresee any trouble as long as the suspects are brought in.

The weekend tension occurred soon after PNG's Emergency Controller, police commissioner David Manning, issued new directives restricting the sale of alcohol by major supermarkets and wholesalers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Attitude is still our biggest concern. We have not learnt yet how to drink and until we can learn to control ourselves such measures will have to be taken," Mr Manning said.