Australia yesterday said it will send 50 police to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to help tackle chronic law and order problems, a day after armed soldiers attacked people indiscriminately at a hospital.
The incident at the Port Moresby General Hospital occurred just hours before Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd arrived in the Papuan capital for talks with his counterpart, Papuan Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
The discussions focused on the Pacific nation’s chronic law and order problems, among other issues, with Rudd announcing Australian police officers will be deployed to the country by the end of the year.
Crime and lawlessness in the poverty-stricken nation is a serious concern, including in the capital where last month four Chinese nationals were hacked to death, with one reportedly beheaded and the others dismembered.
Papua New Guinea recently passed harsh new laws reviving the death penalty as it grapples with a wave of violent crime, particularly against women, which has drawn international condemnation.
In the latest incident, armed soldiers broke down the gates to the hospital on Sunday and began attacking people, seriously injuring a medical student in what was believed to be a revenge attack.
Reports said it was payback for an alleged assault by medical students on two soldiers during a dispute over the use of a cash machine at the hospital on Friday night.
Papuan Police Commissioner Simon Kauba blasted the soldiers for attacking “the very people they have sworn to protect and defend.”
“This is totally uncalled for and unacceptable behavior by members of a disciplined organization,” he said in a statement. “I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms and will ensure that it is thoroughly investigated and those responsible will face the full force of the law.”
Kauba said the soldiers arrived at the hospital in a truck armed with guns, machetes and iron bars and smashed down the gates before beginning their assault. At least six shots were fired.
Kauba said police brought the matter under control, but not before serious damage was done.