24 Jul 2002

Four MPs held in captivity for twelve hours by supporters of prime minister's party

11:12 am on 24 July 2002

Four elected members of the Papua New Guinea parliament, including the former High Commissioner to New Zealand, Moses Maladina, have gone into hiding after being locked up for 12 hours.

The MPs are independents or members of parties which have joined the coalition led by Sir Michael Somare's National Alliance.

Our correspondent in Port Moresby, Peter Niesi says the MPs were ambushed by supporters of the Prime Minister's Party in Alotau.

"They arrived to a reception that they weren't quite expecting. Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's Peoples Democratic Movement supporters were out there. The aircraft, instead of disembarking at the appointed place, ended up taxiing to the end of the airport to a hangar and the crowd moved there as well. And so they ended up being blocked in the hangar of the National Air Services Company and ended up staying there in fear of what might happen for more than twelve hours. They were finally smuggled out from there by some people - its not yet clear who - then were taken away to a safe location and National Alliance officials seem to know where they are."

Peter Niesi says police tried to disperse the crowd but were then told to leave the area.