Monday, May 18, 2009

Police go on alert as anti-Asian uprising continues

Madang, Goroka shops looted


By PISAI GUMAR in The National


THE anti-Chinese traders’ sentiment that started in Port Moresby and flared in Lae last week reared its ugly head in the Madang and Eastern Highlands provinces at the weekend.

Elsewhere, police in Wewak, East Sepik province, and Mt Hagen in Western Highlands were patrolling the streets to prevent any rioting against Chinese traders.

In Port Moresby last Friday, acting Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu had instructed police to immediately investigate the incidents and deal with the ring leaders (see accompanying story).

He had also instructed the Department of Commerce and Industry to investigate claims that a number of the Chinese shops hit were operating illegally.

Four Chinese-owned shops in Goroka were emptied of goods and an undisclosed amount of cash in a nasty Sunday reveille when men, women and children ran riot at 6.30am.

At the gateway to the Eastern Highlands, Kainantu, the atmosphere was palpable but nothing happened as police kept a close tab.

In Madang on Saturday, however, in another morning raid, three shops were attacked by hordes of people believed to be squatters, at 7.30am.

Looters cleaned out one while three were left just as badly damaged when police arrived.

The incidents, like Lae where rioters came from Saw Dust, Kamkumung, West Taraka, 1 to 12 Miles settlements, were attributed to people from the sprawling squatter settlements of Parara, Pis Wara, and Genoka in Goroka and Sisiak 3 and Bukbuk settlements in Madang.

The Sisiak and Bukbuk settlers were joined by hundreds of other settlers in a force numbering hundreds to attack two new Chinese shops and a kai bar in the heart of Madang town.

Other shops, Asian and national, were forced to close doors.

According to Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Chief Insp Augustine Wampe, women, children and men, numbering in the thousands, flocked onto the streets and prevented traffic flow.

Police and private security guards were also outnumbered.

Mr Wampe said the people walked into four Asian shops and completely emptied them of deep freezers, radios, TV screens, washing machines and groceries.

The looted shops, which estimated their losses at K250, 000, were PMK restaurant and retail, Kim Restaurant, Saveu retail and wholesale and the Goroka Yacht Club.

Others that were damaged included Hot Spot, Bintangor, SP Brewery and Trukai Industries.

In Madang, provincial police commander Chief Insp Anthony Wagambie said police apprehended 15 youths.

He said settlement youths took cue of the Lae and Port Moresby incidents last week and mobilised and entered J&Z Trading as it opened for business at 7.30am.

Last Friday, Chief Insp Wagambie said he had warned all shop owners in town not to open before 8 o’clock on Saturday morning to give time for police to prepare.

So as soon the doors were opened and the youths rushed in and emptied the shop, a routine patrol police responded immediately, he said.

A back-up police Mobile Squad arrived and dispersed the crowd and apprehended 15 suspects.

The looters ran into the market and took refuge among the crowd, stopping police from shooting.

Meanwhile, the Madang town market will remain closed today to control further trouble, ousted governor Sir Arnold Amet said last night.

Sir Arnold also went on Radio Madang to appeal for calm in the province, urging citizens to refrain from causing any further trouble.

He said the provincial government, the Madang Urban local level government and police decided yesterday to close the market to business and appealed to citizens to keep gatherings of people to a minimum to avoid any possibility of trouble.

Traffic in and out of Madang was also being closely monitored, Sir Arnold said.


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