Warning of weapons build-up in PNG's Hela province

10:09 am on 16 December 2016

The police command in Papua New Guinea's Hela province has again warned about the build-up of high-powered weapons in the region.

Hela Province Tribesmen

Hela Province Tribesmen Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Hela's capital Tari is in lockdown after another tribal fight involving automatic guns and drive-by shooting causing damage at the local airport and other services such as the bank on Sunday.

The acting Provincial Police Commander said Tari's airport remains closed, and that bank services are operating only at restricted level.

Daniel Yangen said a policeman's son was killed in the unrest.

There has been a surge of deadly tribal clashes in Hela province this year.

Mr Yangen said police were at a loss to stop the clashes due to being down on manpower and lacking logistical support.

"It's getting bad. They're using high-powered weapons. Build-up of guns everywhere. I can't deny that. And elsewhere in Hela, there is high-powered weapons. It's tense. This is a very bad indication for year 2017 elections," Daniel Yangen said.

However he said businesses in Tari were considering moving out permanently because of safety fears due to the surge in tribal fighting.

"They petitioned to the provincial government that Tari town is not conducive for their business to operate, safety of all workers, general public and properties not guaranteed," he explained.

"It is a clear indication of lawlessness in the province. Provincial government authorities and all leaders must be on the ground to assist police."

Inspector Yangen said urgent help was required by national government.

Meanwhile, the permanent Hela PPC, Michael Welly, said he supported the call by the Hela provincial Governor Franci Potape that the province badly needed a functional prison.

Commander Welly, currently unable to get back to tari due to the airport closure, said it'd been a long time since Tari's prison was operational.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs