By JAMES APA GUMUNO
ALCOHOL smugglers overpowered a team of Margarima policemen on Sunday and set a new police vehicle on fire in the Hela region, Southern Highlands, The National reports.
Highlands divisional police commander and assistant police commissioner Simon Kauba yesterday said police had been following a tip-off when they stopped a vehicle transporting cartons of alcohol.
But he said the smugglers turned around, pushed the new police 10-seater Landcruiser into a drain and set it on fire.
He said the attack took place near the border of Margarima and Nipa on Sunday afternoon.
He said about 20 people on the vehicle overpowered the seven policemen and attacked them before running away with the cartons of beer.
Kauba said the police vehicle, which was only a few months old, was destroyed in the fire.
He said he had yet to get a full report from the Hela new provincial police commander.
Kauba said community leaders from Margarima surrendered three of the suspects to police yesterday.
He said police went into the area yesterday and talked to the leaders. He expected those still at large to be handed over to police too.
He appealed to the leaders to work closely with police in their district to maintain order.
Kauba said this was a bad sign for the ExxonMobil, the developer of the natural liquefied gas project, in the Hela region.
He said the Southern Highlands provincial government had banned alcohol in the province last year and the ban was still in place.
He said he could not understand why the locals attacked the officers and set their vehicle on fire when they were only carrying out their duty.
Kauba said the alcohol smugglers did not have any respect for law and order.