An incident involving several Papua New Guinean police kicking a member of its country’s defence force has marked several days of ugly clashes on the streets of Port Moresby.
A video of the wild incident that had been widely circulated on social media after the soldier had fallen off a bike appears to have escalated physical confrontations between the law and order units.
He was allegedly beaten up and taken to the Boroko Police Station.
Irate members of the defence force mobilised before confronting police.
Soldiers later took to the capital’s streets in protest over the violent arrest of their comrades after the heads of police and the defence force faced a crisis meeting relating to their powers, that initially was resolved.
Prime minister James Marape has since condemned the reprisals between police and the defence force.
Marape called on the PNG police commissioner David Manning and defence force commander major general Gilbert Toropo to provide explanations.
“Police and the defence force should be the most disciplined people,” he said in a statement.
“I am disappointed to see such happening and continues to happen.
“The government will not tolerate such behaviour in any way.”
The physical confrontations had civilians fleeing the streets while business houses were forced to close early as tensions rose.
In a joint media conference, Manning and Toropo said they were disappointed with the “unprofessional behaviour” displayed by members of both the disciplinary forces, and that an investigation was underway.
Manning said the police officer that circulated the video on social media has been suspended.
Toropo said the soldiers involved were locked up in a military police cell at Murray Barracks and would be dealt with accordingly.
The rise in the lack of discipline of both forces was blamed on the influence of social media.
“Soldiers are using social media to mobilise and start riots,” Toropo said.
“The information posted on social media by defence force personnel jeopardise stable command and control in the force.
“Unit commanders, at all levels, were finding it difficult to contain individual servicemen and women because they used social media.”
Manning agreed that social media had given another set of challenges to control the forces.
“Police members who used social to cause fear and disruption would be dealt with accordingly,” Manning said.
He added that the internal police investigations team would investigate and deal with officers who openly challenged directives on social media platforms.
“Self-discipline is one of the things that comes with command and control,” he said.
“How a police officer conducts himself on and off duty keeps him/her relevant in the organisation.”