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PNG’S MOUNT HAGEN SHUTS DOWN Police patrol uneasy streets after election

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 14, 2008) – Mount Hagen City streets were empty yesterday with all business houses closing shop as police and private security officers took control.

All traffic into the city’s main streets was blocked off with police and security dog handlers manning the streets.

This followed the election of the Mt Hagen rural LLG president that was tipped to cause unrest in the city.

Dei LLG and Mt Hagen rural elections were conducted yesterday with only councillors allowed into the chambers to cast their votes.

Visitors and foreign tourists flocking into Mt Hagen for the cultural show this weekend were denied access into the city while some were locked away in their hotel rooms.

The city was cleared of people starting as early as 7am as all the shops closed.

Police mobile units from Kerowagi and Wabag were called in to watch the city while the elections took place.

The closure of business houses was contrary to a statement made by Governor Tom Olga and Highlands police chief Simon Kauba on Tuesday against such action.

They had called for normal operations to continue but the business houses receiving earlier warnings from the Mt Hagen Chamber of Commerce decided to close their operations.

Some of the local operators interviewed expressed disappointment at the manner in which council elections had been conducted.

They said it was such a minor election that normally happened in the rural council chambers but had now become a big issue in the city.

SOME of the major companies that closed for the day and sent their workers home were Coca-Cola Amatil, Best Buy Stores, all commercial banks, Bintan-gor Trading, Dae Won, Ela Motors and Boroko Motors.

Schools in the city also closed for the day.

Chamber president Maggie Wilson said normalcy would be restored today.

She said the chamber had to warn the business houses following a tip of about arms build up towards the Mt Hagen rural LLG elections.

She said it was better to take precaution than take the risk as it was unpredictable in such a situation.

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