Transparency International Australia (TI Australia) is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Papua New Guinea (PNG) following police action against a peaceful demonstration by students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) as well as in Lae.
The latest violence from police relates to the student’s ongoing boycott of classes at UPNG over demands that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill appears in Court to answer accusations made by the Government’s Anti-Corruption Task Force. The violence this week has led to the hospitalisation of a number of students, some of whom remain in a critical condition.
TI Australia Chief Executive Phil Newman has said “The threat now posed to anti-corruption advocates and citizens of Papua New Guinea is of growing concern to the Asia Pacific Region and we stand by TI PNG at this critical time.”
TI Australia joins 12 other national chapters in support of TI PNG who is calling on the government of PNG to immediately:
- Guarantee the safety of its citizens;
- Condemn the shooting of unarmed student protesters; and
- Initiate an independent investigation into the police actions against legitimate protests by students at the University on Wednesday
Recent reports indicate schools are closed and public transport is only operating at 50 per cent, adding to disruption of daily life in Port Moresby. Opportunistic looting and civil disturbances took place across Port Moresby on Wednesday as police were deployed to the UPNG.
The possibility for continuing unrest has led to the decision by TI PNG to postpone its key fundraising event: the Annual Walk Against Corruption. The funds expected to be raised from the event are made more important after significant cuts to the Australian Government’s long-term support of the work of TI in PNG and the wider region.
Mr Newman has said “This week’s events have demonstrated the importance of the work TI PNG undertakes and the need for this to continue. The funding cuts will further exacerbate pressures on the weakening economy of PNG, already heavily impacted by falling commodity prices, reducing resources available to address issues of corruption.”
We ask the Australian Government to immediately review the cuts to TI PNG and other organisations working hard to improve the social environment and safety of PNG’s citizens.”
TI Australia notes and supports the immediate calls for calm made by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and believes it is critical at this important time that the Australian Government and Australian Civil Society Organisations stand together against corruption and against the improper use of force to quell peaceful protest.
Serena Lillywhite, CEO: +61 403 436 896