9 Jul 2002

Mt Hagen airport in PNG back in use after riot

2:58 pm on 9 July 2002

Planes are again using Mt Hagen airport in Papua New Guinea's Western Highlands after rioters yesterday forced it to close.

It had been feared the key link would be out of service for several days, but the Civil Aviation Authority says planes are using facility today with air traffic controlled from other centres.

The rioters, supporters of losing candidates in the election, went on a rampage through Mt Hagen, shutting down most businesses and the airport.

At the airport they smashed windows and equipment in the terminals and the air traffic control facility.

A number of shops were also wrecked, while the Post Courier newspaper says several buildings, including a school and a fuel station, were set alight.

Meanwhile eight candidates in Anglimp/South Wahgi electorate of Western Highlands say there will be more trouble in Mt Hagen and the rest of the province unless the Electoral Commission addresses their grievances.

They have called on the Commission to conduct fresh elections in their electorate.

The Post Courier reports a spokesman for the group, former MP Michael Mel

says the future of elections in the region have been thrown into disarray by the actions of the commission and the police force.

He says all the ballot boxes in the electorate are disputed and the candidates will not allow them to be counted.

Mr Mel also says he supports the call made last week by the Governor Fr Robert Lak for the Police Commissioner, his Deputy of Operations and the Provincial Commander, to resign for failing to carry out their duties.