PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 29, 2009) – WE are a nation of six million people and with a growing economy and bright prospects amid a general worldwide air of gloom.

There are new buildings of all sorts erupting in a construction boom in the nation’s capital and a steady flow of similar activity in other urban centres.

The business and government sectors are looking happier every day as the likelihood of the PNG LNG project going ahead gets stronger.

But all of the eagerly anticipated windfall benefits of the LNG and other resource plans will be affected if we do not get certain issues right. Chief among these is law and order.

We need a strong and vibrant police force to keep the peace in the cities, towns and rural areas of the nation. Without them, anarchy will take over. The looting of stores in Port Moresby, Lae and Highlands centres a month ago was a worrying sign of that.

Another spark of such concern was the apparently unplanned looting of stores in the Northern Province’s capital, Popondetta, onFriday.

Our reports point to the anger of oil palm growers who could not get their expected payments from the Higaturu project because of a breakdown in banking or communications.

Asian-owned stores were looted, and the offices of the Bank South Pacific and Air Niugini were damaged.

Mobs can run riot anywhere, in PNG, Australia, America and other countries. The weight of numbers can catch authorities by surprise and lead to an initial "win’’ by the mobs.

But this has happened on several occasions in PNG in recent weeks and it is time that the authorities realise that the example is there and malicious minds will try to take advantage of grievances to instigate riots and reap the "benefits’’.

The Government and its law enforcement agencies need to get off their backsides and devise plans to prevent this sort of disruptive mob mentality from taking over. We cannot let street agitators take charge. If our nation’s bright prospects are to be fulfilled and the dreams of jobs and business are to become a reality for our many talented wage earners, the Government must guarantee the safety of investments.

We don’t know if this means establishing mobile squads in every town and city and arming them with stockades of teargas and rubber bullets and equipping them with savage dogs, or something less combative, but we do need firm plans and the investors and the people of Papua New Guinea need to be assured, quickly.

PNG Post-Courier

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