Australian and New Zealand troops have been sent to Papua New Guinea as the country prepares for volatile general elections. Both countries have stated they are merely assisting the elections, but reports from Post Moresby suggest they are preparing in the event of a breakdown in social order. “Australian troops are holed up in hotels around Port Moresby Airport,” Denis Reinhardt a former adviser to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, said in an email. “In any emergency, the two sites, which would be secured in POM (Port Moresby) would be the Australian High Commission and Jacksons Airport, for evacuations.”
Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Minister of Defense Stephen Smith issued a statement, May 30, saying Australian and New Zealand defense forces would provide personnel and aviation support to transport election materials over the June to July election process. “Australia and New Zealand are providing practical support in response to a request by PNG authorities to assist them with the conduct of a safe, free and fair election,” they said in a statement. But Reinhardt says troops are already there and while he is receiving reports from Moresby that it is presently calm, he warns that it may not remain so.
“There will be sustained and scattered violent events in the lead up to elections,” he wrote. Further warnings were made in a report from Sydney think tank, the Lowy Institute. They credit high “financial bounty” from PNG’s rich resource sector, the “enhanced value of political office,” and a “proliferation of weapons,” as well as increased pressure on security forces as factors that have increased the likelihood of violence.