The Papua New Guinea authorities have declared a state of emergency in the Southern Highlands province following violent protests that broke out in Mendi (Southern Highlands province) on Thursday, June 14. The decision was taken following an emergency National Security Council meeting called by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Additional security forces will reportedly be deployed to the province.
A nightly curfew has been imposed between 18:00 (local time) and 06:00 in Mendi. However, this curfew has reportedly increased tensions between protesters and security forces. Therefore, additional, potentially violent, protests are likely in the coming days.
Furthermore, during the demonstrations, protesters set a plane operated by the airline CAPA on fire at Mendi Airport (MDU). The airline has since suspended all flights to Mendi, Tari (Hela province), and Wapenamanda (Enga province) until further notice. According to local authorities, no one was in the plane at the time of the incident.
The protests erupted after a court issued a ruling confirming William Powi as governor of the province. Similar demonstrations broke out in Mendi in September and October 2017 after Prime Minister O'Neill declared Powi the winner of the 2017 elections. Powi is a member of the ruling People's National Congress party and opposition candidates have challenged the results of the election, claiming fraud and irregularities.
Individuals are advised to monitor the situation and contact their airline for more information if flying to or from Mendi, Tari, or Wapenanmanda. Furthermore, individuals in Papua New Guinea are advised to monitor the security situation, to follow orders issued by local authorities (e.g. curfews), and to avoid all large gatherings due to the possibility of violence.
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