Papua New Guinea: Reports of up to four people killed in police shooting at student protest
Police in Papua New Guinea fired gunshots Wednesday to quell a student protest demanding the prime minister’s resignation, the government said. It reported several injuries but denied reports that as many as four people were killed.
Students in the South Pacific nation have been demanding for weeks that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill resign because of alleged corruption and mismanagement.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she had been advised by the Australian Embassy that police shot students in Port Moresby, the capital, as hundreds prepared to march from the University of Papua New Guinea to Parliament.
“I know that students have been shot, but we’re still trying to determine whether there have been deaths and how many have been injured,” Bishop told reporters. “We call on all sides to be calm and to de-escalate the tension and certainly call on all sides to respect the peaceful and lawful right to protest.”
Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that a Papua New Guinea lawmaker told Parliament that four students had been killed and seven wounded.
Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner Gari Baki, however, said no deaths had been reported. In a statement, Baki said around nine students were receiving medical treatment at Port Moresby General Hospital for a number of injuries.
O’Neill issued a statement saying he was told that a small group of students became violent, threw rocks at police and “provoked a response that came in the form of tear gas and warning shots.”
Five people were treated at the hospital and were in stable condition, with the circumstances that led to their injuries still being investigated, O’Neill said.
The hospital declined to comment.
There were also complaints that police attacked students at a roadblock outside the university.
Waliagai Olewale, a reporter at the local National Broadcasting Corp., said armed police in 20 vehicles clashed with hundreds of students. Most students were eventually chased back onto the campus late in the morning, she said.
Olewale could not confirm that anyone was shot.
She said National Broadcasting Corp. reporter Rose Amos lodged an official complaint saying she had been assaulted by police while reporting the clash.
“She was physically assaulted, she was punched in the stomach, thrown to the ground by police,” Olewale said.
Student Gerald Peni told ABC that police “fired shots directly at the crowd.”
“They fired tear gas. I was right in front and many of the students, they fell, they got injured,” Peni said.