Papua New Guinea vows to pay police, soldiers for Apec duties

Pictures on MP Bryan Kramer’s Facebook page show damage to Papua New Guinea’s Parliament on Tuesday after police and soldiers stormed the building.
Pictures on MP Bryan Kramer’s Facebook page show damage to Papua New Guinea’s Parliament on Tuesday after police and soldiers stormed the building. PHOTO: BRYAN KRAMER/ FACEBOOK

SYDNEY • Papua New Guinea pledged to pay police and soldiers their allowances for the recently concluded Apec summit after they stormed Parliament to demand the unpaid bonuses.

Up to 300 security personnel smashed windows and trashed furniture in Parliament on Tuesday in protest over the special allowance for helping to protect the gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders, which ended Sunday. The outburst prompted looting around the capital of Port Moresby, one of the world’s most crime-ridden cities.

Calm was restored after government ministers met with the protesters late on Tuesday and agreed to pay the Apec allowance plus an additional bonus to all local personnel, police spokesman  Dominic Kakas said yesterday. “Everything is back to normal,” he said.

The lavish welcome for the international dignitaries had stirred resentment in Papua New Guinea, the poorest of Apec’s 21 members.

Preparations for the summit included the construction of roads and conference centres, and the purchase of 40 luxury Maserati cars to ferry visiting leaders around.

Security officers were further frustrated when they learnt that their special duty allowance for the summit was far less than the amount paid to foreign reinforcements brought in for the event, the Post Courier newspaper reported.

For all the hope and promise the Apec summit would put the country on the world stage – and attract investment that will translate into jobs and infrastructure – many are questioning how such an event will benefit their everyday lives.

Close to half of Moresby’s population of around 310,000 live in informal or squatter settlements, according to a 2015 study by the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility.

Papua New Guinea has more than 7.3 million people scattered over its mountainous interior and hundreds of small islands.

While the country is rich in minerals, timber, fish and energy resources, most rural people live at subsistence level and annual per capita GDP is around US$3,600 (S$4,950) a year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2018, with the headline 'Papua New Guinea vow s to pay police, soldiers for Apec duties'. Print Edition | Subscribe