Protesters in PNG’s Mendi torch plane, shut airport

The destroyed Air Nuigini Dash 8 at Mendi Airport Picture: RNZ

PROTESTERS in the Papua New Guinea southern Highlands town of Mendi have torched a plane and closed the airport.

Earlier the local police station commander Gideon Kauke had said police were guarding the aircraft to ensure there was no further damage after its tyres had been flattened.

But he said his team of about ten police couldn’t contain a mob of uncountable numbers, particularly after missiles were thrown, forcing them to retreat; “we were guarding the plane but compared to them we were outnumbered and they came in all directions, all corners. Missiles were thrown, bush knives were thrown.”

Mr Kauke said some of the protestors, who continue to behave menacingly in Mendi as their numbers build up, were carrying guns.

He said the protest was in response to a court ruling in Waigani confirming the election of the Southern Highlands governor William Powi.

Governor Powi’s success in last year’s election had been challenged by Joseph Kobol and Bernard Peter Kaku.

He said the protestors alleged there was foul play in the court decision.

* Read more details and interviews with Fiji nationals in PNG in tomorrow’s edition of The Fiji Times and in our E-Edition.

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