Friday, May 15, 2009

Mass looting of Chinese shops in Lae

* Thousands storm Eriku, Top Town and main market areas

* Lae top cop unsure of cause of riots

* General blame on ‘peaceful’ protest march in National Capital District


Asian shops hit in Lae


By PISAI GUMAR in The National


THOUSANDS of men and boys stormed Chinese shops at Eriku, Top Town and the main market to bring Lae to a standstill yesterday morning, catching the public, businesses and the police off guard.

Lae metropolitan commander Supt Nema Mondiai said he did not know the cause of the melee but ordered police onto the scene following the first riot at the Lae market.

Just after 9am, a Chinese shop near the Bank South Pacific branch was attacked by youths claiming that the shop owner should not be operating in the country and the business was restricted to Papua New Guineans.

The shop closed before any damage could be done and its hired security guards alerted police and newspapers.

One youth was reportedly chopped to death and another hospitalised in an attempted break-in of a Chinese shop at the main market area.

Before 10am, all shops, Chinese and local, all over the city were forced to close in fear of being looted.

There were no PMVs, no motor vehicles, but thousands of human traffic.

As the riots gained momentum, members of the mob were seen and heard calling their friends and relatives on cell phones to come into the city from Kamkumung, West Taraka, Buimo and Bundi Camp, Papuan Compound, Tais, Bumbu and the Miles areas.

The Momase police Mobile Unit responded and set up surveillance with the help of several major security firms to control the situation.

That did not prevent two shops at the just-opened Chayter House at Eriku, one in Top Town and Golden Apple at the corner of Kisere and Malaita St from being looted of undisclosed cash and items.

Old timers Papindo, Seeto Kui, Wan Jih Wah, PC & JY Woo and Stevens Trading were unaffected but closed their doors.

Super Value Store and Raumai 18’s wholesale and department shops were also forced to close.

Using cell phones, the youths, who were also engaged by small Chinese shops to sell cheap items at bargain-basement prices on the streets, gathered, mobilised and attacked.

They rushed into the shops and grabbed tills and items of their choice.

The guards were left helpless.

Police arrived immediately and fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse the rioters.

Stubborn rioters were thrashed with vehicle fan belts and batons.

Supt Mondiai noted: “It was the first of its kind that the city experienced mob looting that struck three major shopping areas at once.” He said he was baffled about the motive. He did not know who the organisers were.

Word on the streets yesterday was that the incident was sparked by a protest march in the National Capital District on Tuesday in which youths had wanted to petition NCD Governor Powes Parkop over restrictions on foreigners operating small businesses.

Supt Mondiai warned other provincial centres to take precautionary measures and monitor their areas.

Some youths, who requested anonymity, said: “We are frustrated with small Asian shops sprouting unnecessarily, selling cheap items around the city.

“Who is allowing these Asians to come into our country and own small businesses which should be owned by Papua New Guineans?

“Even they do businesses here (in Lae) using cheap items, ripping us off and invest our money back in their countries.”

“Mip’la tait na les pinis long ol Kongkong nabaut ya. Mip’la ino wari lo polis tu. Tokim Gavana Wenge redi lo sanap lo kot na rausim ol Asians. Inap em inap.”

They said they were tired of the Chinese and did not care about the police. They wanted Morobe Governor Luther Wenge to go to court and remove all Asians.


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