PNG Post Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 31, 2011) – Cathy was at the Gordons Market in Port Moresby on Friday. It was about 12 noon and the place was crowded with vendors and the city’s residents, who were there, looking and buying the fresh vegetables, which this market is well known for. Cathy was with her mother and they were busy with what they were doing that they did not know what was going on outside the market.

Suddenly she heard gunshots, and everyone was running in all directions. With her mother in tow, they ran but soon an overpowering scent overtook them. The tear gas was blown by the wind into the market place. They joined the rushing crowd who were running for their lives in all directions, with tears streaming down from burning eyes. For Cathy and her mother, it was a very frightening experience for them. It was the same for the other families who were out in the market that day.

In a place like Gordons market, at any given day, you will find people from all over Papua New Guinea there. Amongst them, you will find people from all over the world, buying the fresh produce on sale.

The scene at this market best illustrates that Port Moresby has an international community. The expatriate community lives and works among Papua New Guineans from different cultures and backgrounds and among the local population, there are people who have very little education but have come to the city to exploit the opportunities it offers.

For them, it is their cultures and traditions that bind them together and they share their problems and wealth as one people, as they struggle to survive in this growing city. As the fight for survival take hold, each group stake out territories and defend them so that their members can conduct various small business activities to earn income which goes towards meeting their obligations in the city.

The current ethnic clash at Gordons in Port Moresby is a result of the struggle for dominance at the Gordons Market, a prime spot for any vendor in the city. The relationship between the Southern Highlands or Hela people and the Enga people was not good, with one accusing the other of applying bullying tactics on its members. This went on for some time until Thursday when a young man, under the influence of liquor bumped into another who scolded him. "Hey, yu lukluk na wokabout, yu bai tanim graun?" The argument started, which developed into four days of violence in the city.

Ethnic violence in Port Moresby is not new. Recently the Goilalas of Central and a group from the Highlands fought at Koki and one man died and thousands of kina worth of properties destroyed. Tension is still high. In Lae, ethnic clashes along the miles area are well documented. Tension is still high at 5-Mile where the Western Highlanders fought with the Eastern Highlanders. The ethnic clashes at Bulolo are well documented as well.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a land of many languages and different cultures. A lot of our people are not educated to a level where they can think and live as one people in one country. It will take a long time before we get there but that should not be an excuse for groups of people to go around the cities, attacking people and killing them at will.

We agree with Moresby North East Member of Parliament (MP) Andrew Mald and Tari Pori MP and Education Minister James Marape that this type of behavior is animalistic and barbaric. People who promote such behavior must be dealt with harshly by the law as a deterrent measure. The state should not treat these people lightly for they do not care about the impact their actions have on others and the international reputation of PNG.

We however do not agree that anyone who wants to attack and kill in this manner should take their animalistic and barbaric behavior to their home provinces. Nowhere in PNG should we entertain any such behavior. Violence of any kind must be done away with in this country.

We agree with Andrew Mald again that this city, or Papua New Guinea for that matter, belongs to every Papua New Guinean who must live in peace and harmony and together they must conduct their businesses to help build their country. There is no other way.

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