211 arrested for violence, disruptions

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MORE than 200 men including three candidates have been arrested in Madang and charged with fighting and disrupting the counting of votes, police say.
Provincial police commander Acting Superintendent Mazuc Rubiang said a fight started among candidates’ supporters at around 8pm on Wednesday.
He said members of the security forces managed to calm down the initial confrontation.
“But it resumed again yesterday morning. We addressed them but they started being aggressive again and proceeded to destroying infrastructure like the grandstand at the Walium station,” he said.
He said 211 men were arrested and charged at the Walium police station for fighting and disrupting the counting process.
“The men will be transported to Madang if eliminations of Usino-Bundi is not completed by tomorrow (today),” he said.
“I have arranged with the officer in charge of prosecution to arrange a special hearing for them tonight (last night) or tomorrow (today).
“The Beon Prison commander has also been advised to accommodate them there.”
He said the violence had been happening since polling began, causing “unnecessary panic and fear to the general public”.
“I can’t allow this to go on so we had to be tough on this”.
Some candidates alleged that data in the counting room could not be reconciled, and claimed that the mass arrest was a diversion to allow the counting to continue.
Returning Officer Terence Baiyo confirmed the irreconcilable figures but blamed it on the inexperienced counting officials.
“Most officials for this general election are young people put under constant pressure by the scrutineers.
“They were bound to make mistakes,” he said.

Niningi: O’Neill must hand over party reins

FORMER prime minister Peter O’Neill has been urged to step down as the People National Congress party (PNC) leader to prove his statement that he is ready to back new leaders.
Fellow Southern Highlander Pila Niningi, re-elected as the Imbonggu MP, said O’Neill should stand by what he said in The National yesterday that he was ready to back new leaders.
“If O’Neill is ready to back new leaders, he must first resign and give the PNC party leader position to someone more credible than himself,” Niningi said.
“Until then, (it is) another of those (misleading statements) that come from a master of deception.”
Niningi said it was the only way O’Neill could prove that he was genuinely ready to back new leaders.
“Otherwise, everyone is familiar with his typical trickery. We will not buy O’Neill’s nonsense,” he said.
He said during the formation of the last government, they had agreed that O’Neill be not nominated as an intending prime minister.
“But he went ahead and (was) nominated. There is no trust in such a person.”
Niningi said O’Neill knew that “his days are numbered and therefore is desperate to be in power to protect himself”.
Niningi said the PNC party leadership must be given to the region that produced the biggest number of MPs under the PNC because the Southern Highlands people had rejected the party.
He said O’Neill should have respected the people’s decision to choose Pangu “just like what they did in 2017 to mandate the PNC”.

Leaders divided as country in dire distress: Namah

OPPOSITION Leader Belden Namah says leaders continue to talk of tribal and regional politics while the nation lies in “dire distress”.
“While our people suffer, we divide ourselves into coastal and highlands groupings,” the re-elected MP for Vanimo-Green said.
“This is shameful after 47 years of Independence.
“These divisions go against the basis of nationhood. No regional grouping must exist among us.
“We must only have groups in this country based on professional, sporting or political party affiliations.
“All regional groupings must disband and we must hear of them no more.
“That is because violence is not the exclusive trait of one group.
“Intelligence, goodness and evil is found in every regional grouping.
“Our people are not stupid.
“Let us not insult their intelligence by petty bickering like children. We have wasted time enough.
“We have lost focus and direction enough.
“Our people have suffered enough. It is time for positive decisive action. It is time for change.”
Namah said Parliament must guarantee stability in the Government and its institutions. “Parliament must set the direction and ensure compliance,” Namah said.
“We do this as the Parliament of the State of Papua New Guinea, not as a bunch of highlanders or coastals or Papuans or NGIs or Momases and or Highlands.”
Namah said MPs must remember that it was the “PNG hour, not the Me hour: the Nation hour, not the tribe hour.”

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