PNG OFFICIAL WAYLAID, ROBBED OF $224,000

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 27) - More than PGK630,000 [US$224,000] belonging to the Southern Highlands Provincial Government was stolen and the official vehicle of the provincial legal officer stripped and burnt allegedly by supporters of a local member of Parliament.

The vehicle, a 10-seater troop carrier, was shot at using an M16 assault rifle on Friday in the Nipa area and a State of Emergency (Sue) officer received gun wounds and other locals in the same vehicle sustained knife wounds.

Mr. Luke Simon, who is the provincial legal officer of the SHP government, said he was on his official duty when angry supporters of the local MP attacked his vehicle.

Simon squarely blamed the attack the MP’s supporters whom he claimed were angry when they heard of the extension of the SoE and the suspension of the provincial government.

Among the items stolen were a laptop, a satellite phone, a brief case and two suitcases containing personal items and clothes, he said.

He said the PGK600,000 [US$213,000] in checks and PGK34,000 [US$12,000] in cash was stolen. The money was meant for the local people who had been contracted to clean up roads along the highway, adding that he had traveled there from Port Moresby with three SoE security personnel to inform the people when they would be paid.

A senior officer with the SoE yesterday confirmed that the attackers were angry supporters of the local MP who were frustrated over the extension of the SoE.

He said controller Geoffrey Vaki and members of the SoE traveled to Nipa yesterday to address the problem.

The officer, who did not want to be named, said Simon could not be attacked for any other reasons and described the attack as senseless.

"These people have total disregard for the law and they will face the full force of the law," he said.

The senior officer said a pre-deployment of additional manpower to the SoE will soon boost the number from 600 men to 1,800 who will be stationed in the province to take care of law and order until the elections

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