Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bulolo shuts down as armed locals hunt rivals

EMBATTLED Sepik settlers in Bulolo are blaming the Morobe government of being slow in repatriating them, The National reports.

Their statement followed the killing of two young Sepiks, who were believed to be from the care centre, at the Saksak settlement and the severe wounding of 12 men by locals on Sunday.

The toll included 10 homes which were also razed by locals at Saksak, Jinker Road and New Camp.

The 12 critically wounded men have been rushed to Lae for intensive care at the Angau Memorial Hospital.

As the situation worsened with all schools, shops and the bank closed, locals were entering Bulolo with guns, bows and arrows and knives to join forces at the town market while the 32 policemen try their best to contain the situation.

Fears of fighting have forced all transport operators off the roads.

Residents in Wau last night said all shops were without food and the Morobe Mining JV, developer of the Hidden Valley gold mine, had not made any freight runs since Sunday.

Several Sepiks in Bulolo said people at the care centre wanted to leave, but the provincial government had not helped the district to repatriate them.

The plea was an about-turn by the Sepiks who, up until last Friday, had demanded the Morobe and national governments to find land in and around Bulolo to resettle them.

“They were so staunch in their demands that they went out and attacked local villagers panning for gold in the Bulolo River – both as a revenge for the April attacks and as a sign that this was as much their home as it was the Morobeans,” a PNG Forest Product employee said.

More than 2,000 Sepiks are now camped in the care centre at the PNG Forest Products premises, with very little to survive on. They had no clothes, no food and medicine.

The rations ran severely low yesterday.

On Sunday afternoon, locals from Bulolo camped at the town market.

Residents said the number of locals was rising every evening, with people coming in from the villages with bows and arrows, bush knives and axes.

Police also reported that they had proof from ballistics that the locals had “a number of sophisticated rifles”.

More than 30 policemen were stationed in Bulolo with reinforcements expected in from Port Moresby and Goroka today.

The police themselves have been burdened with logistical support. They have not been paid their previous three-month allowances.

Last weekend’s 21-day operational call had also not been paid.

The policemen are paying for meals out of their own pockets.

“What is worse, they are paying for calls to police headquarters using their own units on their mobile phones,” an observer said. 

The police also suffered at the hands of the locals.

A resident policeman was stripped of his uniforms and his house cleaned of all its items yesterday.

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