Papua New Guinea police open fire on protesting students
Students have been locked in a month-long standoff with authorities and have been boycotting classes as they demand Prime Minister Peter O’Neill step aside over corruption allegations.
Witnesses said the clashes broke out in the capital Port Moresby as students prepared to march from the University of Papua New Guinea to parliament, where O’Neill was due to face a no-confidence vote.
Anti-corruption campaigner Noel Anjo Kolao, who helped organise the protest, said police had set up roadblocks and pointed their guns at students.
“Then they started shooting at them,” he told AFP by phone, saying he saw several injured students.
“We have two sets of laws in Papua New Guinea, one for the prime minister and one for ordinary citizens.”
Police Commissioner Gari Baki said in a statement that 23 people were hurt. Five of them were critically injured, according to the Port Moresby General Hospital and the Gerehu St John’s Hospital. Reports in Australian media that four people had been killed were denied.
Baki said that when police told the students their march was illegal, they were pelted with stones before shots were fired in the air to disperse the crowd.
He added that as news circulated on social media, a large crowd armed with machetes, bows and arrows and home-made guns attempted to burn down a police barracks but were thwarted.
“Police in the city and around the country will come down hard on any opportunists who want to cause trouble,” he said.