Papua New Guinea's police commissioner announced on Tuesday, November 24, that additional police officers have been deployed to the capital Port Moresby as the country's escalating political crisis prompts security concerns. David Manning stated that additional officers had been flown to the city from other provinces but warned police to remain politically neutral and impartial in their enforcement of security directives.
The additional security in the capital comes as political tensions in the country continue to escalate, with Prime Minister James Mararpe's government facing a potential vote of no confidence. Opposition groups have gained a majority in parliament in recent weeks following a number of defections from Marape's bloc, but the government adjourned parliament before a confidence vote could be organized in a move that is currently subject to a legal challenge by the opposition. The national budget, which was rushed through parliament shortly before its adjournment with a minimal number of MPs present, has also been challenged by the opposition. In a related case, Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court is expected to rule on a legal challenge to Marape's original appointment as prime minister in May 2019 by Friday, November 27, presenting a further threat to government stability.
Additional police deployments, including roadblocks, are likely in Port Moresby in the medium term, particularly in the Waigani area around Parliament House and government offices. Additional security is also likely around hotels which may be used for government or opposition meetings and negotiations. There is a realistic possibility of demonstrations in the capital linked to the ongoing political crisis which present a significant risk of unrest and political violence.
Marape was appointed as prime minister after his predecessor, Peter O'Neill, resigned in May 2019 following a slew of defections from his cabinet linked to poor economic performance and long-running allegations of corruption and nepotism. The opposition had hoped to install their own candidate following O'Neill's departure but soon fell victim to Papua New Guinea's notoriously fickle political allegiances as dozens of MPs crossed back over to the government benches, their objective of removing O'Neill having been achieved. With its parliamentary authority returned, the government was able to quickly build support for Marape. However, the unstable nature of Papua New Guinea's political coalitions, largely based on personal, business, and ethnic ties rather than party affiliation, has meant that the government has continued to face serious challenges to its authority.
Those in Port Moresby are advised to monitor developments, maintain a low profile, and exercise a heightened level of vigilance. Travelers should avoid all demonstrations and political gatherings due to the risk of violent unrest, and minimize time spent in the vicinity of potential flashpoints, including police checkpoints, government buildings, and political meeting places. Increased security measures are likely to cause localized travel disruptions in some areas, particularly in Waigani, and travelers should account for this in itineraries, avoiding the area where possible.
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