MOUNT HAGAN, PNG UNDER SIEGE FOR TWO DAYS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, May 28) – Kapal Haus, the provincial headquarters of Papua New Guinea's Western Highlands, located in the heart of Mount Hagen City, came under siege for almost three hours last Friday night.

Several security guards manning the gates received serious knife wounds and are recovering at various hospitals around the city – three of them in critical conditions. Windows in the three-storey administration building and government vehicles were smashed with rocks and other missiles in the rampage.

Then on Saturday morning, there was total confusion, chaos and terror as knife-wielding insurgents caused havoc in the third largest city again. Shops, service stations, PMVs, hotels, banking ATMs, and other services were disrupted or halted and streets closed for the day as ethnic groups – believed to be sub clans of the local Jika tribe – clashed.

It is not known why Kapal Haus was targeted but the Post-Courier was reliably told supporters were frustrated that the National Court had restrained Cabinet-appointed Malcolm Culligan as confirmed administrator and instead allowed incumbent Michael Wandil to act in the position.

Governor Paias Wingti called the Post-Courier yesterday blasting the National Executive Council and describing it as an "incompetent and desperate body" recklessly making decisions to cling onto power, causing unnecessary confusion and anarchy.

He said the NEC was not respecting the court systems by making appointments when it already knew it didn’t have power to do so.

"The NEC had already caused administrative chaos in Southern Highlands and now it has touched Western Highlands. Their stupidity has provoked violence in the city and they are liable because they want to satisfy themselves."

Provincial finance chairman Nathan Wantepe, who fell victim to the melee – losing his official car– shared the same sentiments, saying the confrontation was not politically connected.

The Saturday battle saw almost four hours of intense stone throwing at the main market and continued to China Town and eventually ended at the Highlander Hotel.

Police arrived hours later and could not do anything to quell the tense situation. This received widespread criticism from residents and businessmen who questioned their capabilities. Continued violence will affect election planning because local electoral office is located at Kapal Haus.

"If it’s closed for a week or so … it will definitely be a setback because time is against us as we need to put everything together," provincial election manager Kala Rawali said yesterday

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