Regional air force help for Papua New Guinea
Mon, 18 Jun 2012 11:04a.m.
By Alex Perrottet
The National newspaper reported one man was shot dead by police at the Southern Highlands’ Nipa district yesterday at a political rally. Earlier in the week two others were reported to have been shot by an election candidate.
A reporter from the paper actually witnessed the killing of the man yesterday, who was allegedly intimidating members of the crowd and wielding a knife.
The man was a former chief executive officer of a company and he remains in police custody after police reportedly found “a self-loading rifle (SLR), an automatic Sig pistol with 29 rounds of ammunition, a box containing 25 buck shots and a telescope”, according to the Post-Courier.
The New Zealand Defence Force will support the Australian Defence Force-led Combined Joint Task Force 630, where more than 250 Australian and New Zealand troops will assist the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission in the transportation of election material and election officials to and from remote areas for the election which runs from June 23 until July 6.
The Defence Force says two Air Force UH-1H Iroquois helicopters have been loaded on to a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 for deployment to Papua New Guinea, with a third to follow on a further C-17 on Friday.
Deputy Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, NZ Lieutenant-Colonel David de Koning says 40 New Zealand Defence Force staff will be involved.
“No. 3 Squadron will operate through Northern Province and Milne Bay transporting election officials and materials into the more remote villages. They have a lot of work to do over a very short period of time to help ensure the people on the ground get their opportunity to vote.”
‘Ready to go'
The squadron has just returned from an annual tropical flying exercise in Samoa and Wing Commander Shaun Clark says personnel are adapted to the tropical environment and “everyone is excited about the opportunity”.
With only a week and a half until the election, many candidates are still on the campaign trail, and those in remote areas are yet to reach many of their constituents as they are travelling on foot.
Candidates in areas such as Popondetta in the Northern Province have been walking for days, according to Post-Courier reports. The deputy mayor of Popondetta Town George Poji Manuda said: “Many of those who are walking may not reach their targeted villages before the end of the campaign period.”
He also said the candidates prepared late and missed out on other means of transport booked earlier by other candidates.
The Papua New Guinea election has been preceded by a constitutional crisis and two rival governments vying for power. Both rivals for Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare and incumbent Peter O’Neil will contest for power, while the country’s Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia still faces sedition charges.
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