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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 19) - A street vendor has told of being pounced on and thrown into a pool of diesel by interim town authority workers in Mt. Hagen last week.

The victim, Peter Simil from Chimbu, claimed authority workers randomly apprehended five street vendors last week near the city’s main market and confiscated their goods and physically assaulted them.

He said he was caught at the market by the authority workers while selling goods to buyers.

"They chased me at the market… grabbed me and threw me into their truck and started punching me in the truck on their way to the workshop. They searched me and got my things and K26 and threw me into the engine oil," Simil said.

"Where did the ITA get their laws to punch us and throw us into engine oil?’’ he asked.

Simil said he splashed engine oil on his face to show what he went through when fronted at the Post-Courier office in Mt. Hagen to tell his story.

Simil showed a receipt of what he claimed were the goods he had bought from a wholesaler in the city, which he was selling when he was "caught."

The goods cost K41 according to the receipt.

"Two times they have done that to me," he said.

Simil accused the authority of targeting non-Western Highlanders in the clamp down, saying many locals were like him, selling goods in the open.

"Western Highlanders themselves are selling cooked chickens and sugar cane which causes a lot of littering in the center of the city but nothing has been done to them. It is really unfair," he said.

Simil said such treatment was causing friction among the residents of the city.

Mt. Hagen City Council Authority health and social services manager Victor Megao was apologetic about the incident.

"We apologize that my boys have done it, but people have to understand that we need to keep our city clean," Megao said. "We are talking about keeping our city clean and we feel the pain. We have an attitude problem."

Megao said the new informal sector law does not guarantee street vendors a place of sale everywhere in the city.

"The new law says its all right to sell in the open, but the administrative authority still has the power to make sure vendors follow the law," he said.

Asked about locals not being targeted by the authority workers, Megao said it was not true and workers were only implementing laws to keep the city clean.

April 20, 2005

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