PM: A sad, embarrassing day

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MENDI in Southern Highlands came to a halt yesterday afternoon following the burning of a Link PNG aircraft at the airport, the Court House and Governor William Powi’s home.
Protesters came from all directions targeting state-owned properties believed to have stemmed from a court decision in Port Moresby yesterday in favour of Powi.
Quick response from deployed PNG Defence Force personnel prevented the hooligans from burning down the provincial headquarters, and the Agiru Centre.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told The National that a state of emergency would be declared and the Mendi Airport would not be reopened.
Describing the incident, O’Neill said it was: “Very sad and embarrassing day.
“A state of emergency will be declared, and additional security forces are being deployed to prevent further unlawful behaviour.
“An emergency meeting of the National Security Council will take place (today) to approve emergency arrangements under appropriate laws.
“Those involved will be detained by police and prosecuted.
“There is no place in politics for this type of behaviour, and leaders involved with this activity will be held to account.
“All leaders must respect the rule of law, respect decisions of the court and respect the safety of people and property.”
Police Minister Jelta Wong supported the prime minister, adding that people need to be responsible for the actions
Air Niugini management yesterday confirmed a Link PNG DHC-8 aircraft was burnt when rioters invaded the tarmac, and National Airports Corporation (NAC) closed the airport. The management said that
the crew and passengers were safe.
“Link PNG (which is a subsidiary of Air Niugini) is suspending flights also to Tari and Wapenamanda until further notice, associated with these developments,” it said in a statement.
The incident took place at around 2pm when a flight from Port Moresby landed at Mendi Airport.
People saw the plane, they ran straight into the airport and set the plane on fire.
Provincial police commander Chief Supt Joseph Tondop said he was on a compassionate leave and referred The National to the Mendi police station commander Insp Gideon Kauke.
Schools, banks and other service providers were shut in the afternoon.