Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for calm in neighbouring Papua New Guinea on Thursday, a day after widespread looting and arson left buildings in capital Port Moresby aflame amid reports of several deaths.
A police strike on Wednesday over a pay cut that officials blamed on an administrative glitch descended into lawlessness over the day, with TV footage showing thousands in the streets of Port Moresby, many carrying what appeared to be looted merchandise as black smoke billowed over the city.
Albanese said Australia was monitoring the situation via its high commission and had not received any requests for help from Papua New Guinea, which it regularly supports in policing and security.
“Our high commission in Port Moresby are keeping a very close eye on what is occurring there, making sure Australians are looked after,” he told a news conference.
“We continue to urge calm at this difficult time. We haven’t had any requests from the PNG government at this time but … our friends in Papua New Guinea, we have a great relationship with them.”
Police in the Pacific Islands nation have struggled with a surge in violent crime over the past year. Prime Minister James Marape has said boosting security would help to attract foreign investment in PNG’s burgeoning gold and copper resources sector.
Police went on strike on Wednesday morning after discovering a reduction in their pay packets.
The government circulated messages on social media denying that a new tax had been imposed on police, and Marape vowed to fix any administrative error that had caused the pay shortfall.
An official told local radio FM100 on Wednesday that without police the city had “lost control”.