PNG LOOTERS MAKE OFF WITH TRUCKLOAD OF BEER

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By James Kila

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 3) - More than 2,600 cartons of SP green can beer were looted from a semi-trailer container truck that went off the road at the Kugumo section of the Okuk Highway in Henganofi district, Eastern Highlands province, last Friday.

Villagers and traveling public feasted on "free" cartons of beers and even sold the loot at very cheap prices ranging from 50 toea a can to PGK20 a carton [US$0.17 to US$7].

An eye-witness from Kugumo village Peter Kantugu said the semi-trailer truck, owned by East-West Transport, was ferrying two containers of beer bound for Goroka from Lae when it failed to negotiate a corner before the Dunantina Bridge and went off the road.

The witness said as soon as nearby villagers noticed the vehicle go off the road, they ran from every direction to the truck, and tried every means possible to rip open the containers.

"Instead of saving the vehicle and driver, the youths ran to the container with axes and cut open the metal container to pull out the contents," Mr. Kantugu said.

"When the men discovered that the containers contained cans of beer in pallets, they became very excited and very quickly used axes to break open the containers," he added.

He said it was quite a sight to watch as the men were drinking as they remove cartons of beer from the container and carried them away.

An interesting scenario the witness noticed was that looters stood at the side of the road and were calling to the traveling public in PMV buses if they wanted to buy beer.

"Some of them sold a can for PGK1 [US$0.35] while others sold a can for as low as 50 toea," he said.

A bus driver bound for Madang, Jim Sipa, said the village youths sold a carton to him for K20.

The truck was bound for the SP Brewery depot in Goroka, when the incident happened.

A employee from the SP Brewery depot in Goroka said that 22 pallets were in the two containers with more than 2,600 cartons of canned beers.

Police in Goroka and Henganofi confirmed the incident, however, said no arrests were made because there were many people involved in the looting and many had already fled the scene with the loot before they arrived.

The eye-witness said the highway patrol police arrived at the scene quite late as most of the cartons of beer had already gone.

Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Supt Philip Solala said looting of container trucks between Goroka and Kainantu was becoming too frequent.

He said police would step up patrol along these sections but also called on the leaders to control the people living along the highway.

Supt Solala said villagers along that section of the road did not act as "good Samaritans". They usually loot from trucks involved in accidents and even PMV buses.

"Such attitude is very shameful."

A PMV operator from the Dunatina area, Peter Hojao, said village youths after looting the container truck last Friday partied on the cartons of beer till Sunday.

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