Visit Report: Papua New Guinea descends into failed state status

Port Moresby has declared a state of emergency after protesting police sent the city into a rioting and looting frenzy in what can best be described as a pseudo-coup by the police.

The catalyst violence which has reportedly already claimed 16 deaths in both Port Moresby and the second city of Lae was a “supposed” glitch in the pay of the PNG Police Force. Said glitch underpaid the police around $100 each, a huge sum of money in the impoverished country.

Although the government claimed it was a “mistake”, there are now reports suggesting that the changes to police salaries may have been politically motivated.

Opportunistic riots?

What followed the police protests were what has been called “opportunistic” rioters who proceeded to loot shops, set buildings on fire and even rip ATMs from walls. 

Most looters were apparently from the poorer areas, as well as the slums, and it has been claimed that they acted because they knew the police were on strike.

Many in the capital and beyond though have asked why, as later happened police were not drawn in from other provinces, or the armed forces used to keep order.

This has led some to speculate that far from merely taking a step back the police force in Port Moresby were in fact in cahoots with the Raskol gangs that ran amok.

Papua New Guinea is notoriously one of the most corrupt countries on earth, with the police force being particularly despised for their role, or rather inactivity in making Port Moresby one of the most dangerous cities on earth.  

Settling of scores

While the exact cause of death has not been confirmed for the 16+ dead it has been reported that ambulance workers were called to a number of shootings, with one Port Moresby resident telling us “Most of it was pure anarchy, but there were certain planned elements, with these troubles often been used as fronts for score-settling”.

Chinese interests also seemed to also be disproportionally hit, not an uncommon occurrence in a region well known for its anti-China pogroms, with the PRC embassy formally complaining to the government “The Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea has lodged solemn representations with the Papua New Guinea side over the attacks on the Chinese shops,” the embassy said on WeChat.

End to the violence in Port Moresby

Yet as quickly as it started, so too did it seem to finish with not only police drawn in from other provinces, but also 1000 members of the ill-trusted Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) on “standby”.

This meant that by the weekend not only had the looters returned home, but flights were back to normal and the slow process of rebuilding could begin.

Perhaps more tragically than the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted and the loss of life though were just how normal this was for the people of Papua New Guinea, with our driver Leo stating “You do not see the police unless they want bribe and Port Moresby is hell to live in, this was just a flex from them to show if they are messed things they can make things even worse than they are, which even we Papuans did not think possible”. 

As things stand the political opposition are planning a vote of no confidence in February, but very little is likely to change regardless of who is in power.

Papua New Guinea does not have a problem with democracy, it has a problem with corruption, inequality and most importantly being a pawn of the western new-liberal agenda. 

For now, the West can keep the politicians of Papua New Guinea onside through favours and money, but a revolution in PNG can only be staved off for so long.