Friday, November 04, 2011

Violence hits Lae

Smoke billowing from a burning building inside the Lae market yesterday as tension gripped the city after street sellers and peddlers were chase away by local youths following an increase in criminal activities.-Picture by RHYS GRIGGS

LAE city was torn by violence at noon yesterday when two separate incidents of rioting forced schools, government offices, banks and shops to close and public transportation to stop, The National reports.
More than a thousand Morobean youths had decided to take the law into their own hands to bring back peace onto the streets of Lae and chased street sellers and pick pockets around Top Town yesterday.
In the process, they stoned PMVs and shops owned by highlanders.
They also pledged to return to Top Town today as a much bigger force.
However, the damage was mi­nimal compared to previous riots, which were often headed by the street sellers.
Word has already been sent to the predominantly Morobe settlements at Hunter, Malahang and Bumayong and the Miles areas for all Morobean youths to assemble peacefully at the provincial headquarters today and demand lawful action against street sellers and thugs.
The street sellers and thugs, who are mainly of highlands origin, were increasingly becoming belligerent and blamed for serious crimes like rape in broad daylight in public places.
The Morobe youths had gathered at the provincial headquarters at Top Town before noon and demanded an audience with Governor Luther Wenge.
While they were waiting to be addressed, a fire broke out at a shop at the Lae market and hundreds of their nemesis, the street sellers and pick pockets, rushed to the burning building, sparking a riot.
However, police were at the scene quickly and owners of shops and offices acted just as fast to close their doors, preventing any looting.
The angry youths were addressed by Deputy Governor Morokoi Gaiwata and deputy provincial administrator for corporate services Geoving Belong. Wenge and provincial administrator Kemas Tomala did not attend.
Despite the presence of police, who were easily outnumbered, the crowd
chanted anti-highlands sentiments.
Traffic flow into town from the market area and Eriku were halted, with buses turning away passengers to avoid the angry mob.
The Morobe youths also attacked Chinese shops in Top Town because, they said, the Asian entrepreneurs supplied the street sellers with DVDs and gadgets like mobile phones and flash drives, and sunglasses to sell to the public.
More than three hours after the uprising, police had to chase opportunists who went around Top Town attempting to loot shops.

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