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By Finau Fonua, RNZ Pacific journalist

A political crisis is starting to brew in Papua New Guinea as calls are made for Prime Minster James Marape to step down in the wake of deadly riots in parts of the country.

Violence broke out with shops and businesses being set alight late yesterday, after public servants, including police and army personnel, went on strike over a pay roll issue.

At least 10 people have been confirmed dead — eight in Port Moresby and two others in the northern city of Lae. [Al Jazeera reports 15 dead while ABC Pacific says 16 have been killed].

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape at the MSG meeting in Port Vila
PNG Prime Minster James Marape . . . under fire over the rioting. Image: RNZ Pacific/Kelvin Anthony/File

On Thursday morning, Marape appealed to citizens not to take to the streets and “do anything and everything they feel”.

“Ill-discipline in the police force will not be tolerated, ill-discipline in the defence will not be tolerated, you can have one moment in the sunlight but this moment won’t last forever,” he said at a news conference on Thursday.

There has been widespread anger over Marape’s handling of the dispute as the violence and looting continues.

Police and defence personnel are trying to restore order, with 180 additional police flying into Port Moresby today.

‘Complete breakdown’
Six MPs have resigned from Papua New Guinea’s government. They are Sir Puka Temu, David Arore, James Donald, Maso Hewabi, Keith Iduhu and James Nomane.

Chauve MP James Nomane and Hiri-Koiari MP Kieth Iduhu made their resignations public via social media.

Both blamed Marape for the riots in Port Moresby, and which are now spreading to other parts of the country.

Nomane and Iduhu are members of Marape’s ruling Pangu Pati, and have called on him to resign.

“Today, I have tendered my resignation from the Marape-Rosso government due to my lack in confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership,” said Iduhu in a Facebook post.

“I join the call of my colleague MPs in asking for the Prime Minister’s resignation based on the complete breakdown of our societal values and welfare,” he added.

The Port Moresby rioting was featured on Al Jazeera world news tonight
The Port Moresby rioting was featured on Al Jazeera world news tonight with the network reporting 15 dead. Image: AJ screenshot APR

Iduhu went on to accuse Marape of failing to address the grievances raised by Papua New Guinea’s police and military.

Core issue
“The core issue surrounding the grievances raised by the disciplinary forces was completely avoidable had it not been for bureaucratic negligence, and ensuing events even after the government was made aware of the situation displayed a lack of care for the potential for the situation to spiral of control,” he said.

Nomane’s statement of resignation was much harsher. He steps down from a senior role as PNG’s Vice Minister of National Planning.

He accused Marape of failing to run the country.

“I, now on this 11th day of January 2024, resign from the Marape-led government. I have no confidence in the prime minister,” Nomane said.

James Nomane, MP for Chauve District.
Chauve MP James Nomane . . . “I have no confidence in the prime minister”. Image: RNZ Pacific

James Nomane, MP for Chuave District. Photo: Papua New Guinea Parliament

“Do the honourable thing and resign as the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Resign for being indecisive and weak … resign for the country slipping into a Banana Republic, and for this crisis happening under your watch.

“What happened in Port Moresby yesterday was absolutely unacceptable . . . and warrants the immediate resignation of James Marape as the prime minister.

“The time has come for James Marape to stop pretending and step aside as the prime minister to put the nation’s interest ahead of his own . . .  This facade must stop.”

RNZ has approached the prime minister for comment.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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