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Soldiers attacked workers, stole $41,000

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 9, 2011) - A group of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Defence Force soldiers from Taurama Barracks outside Port Moresby ran riot at the Inter-Oil Manu Autoport fuel service station and bashed up workers, ransacked the shop and stole over 100,000 kina [US$41,000] in cash.

A formal complained to police estimated the losses and damages to bowsers to more than 5 million kina [US$2 million]. Complaint was filed by franchise owner Mr. Ruben Kandiu.

According to a major incidents report by police, three soldiers in civilian clothes had a fight with a man believed to be from Enga Province at a drinking hole called Baret Club in between the Bisini Parade and Saint Joseph’s Catholic Parish church.

The fight was later dragged to Manu Autoport at about 10am and they started fighting again. They fought near a betelnut market and later toward the fuel bowsers. The fuel station workers politely asked them to take the fight away from the fuel pumps which they did and started belting up the Enga man again.

The Engan man’s relatives joined in and attacked the soldiers, injuring them.

Police said the three men went to Taurama barracks and returned with reinforcements – about 25 men loaded in two trucks and two Toyota Land Cruisers – most of the soldiers were armed and in battle gear.

On arrival, the soldiers started discharging firearms and scaring civilians at the service station and the Malaoro Market, causing them to flee in all directions.

The soldiers went out and smashed the six fuel pumps and smashed the shop windows and "looted store goods and two-day-takings of more than K108,000 in cash".

Police described it as a mass destruction of properties. The complaint filed by Mr. Kandiu to police estimated that the total estimated cost of damages and goods stolen was more than K5 million.

Two female staff workers were also attacked and they sustained injuries – cuts and bruises to their bodies – mostly from shattered glass.

The management and staff are in shock and are confused as to why they were picked on by the soldiers and why they stole takings from Friday and Saturday.

Those out early to buy garden produce where shocked and upset at the manner the soldiers had retaliated to situation which had happened earlier on in the morning. According to eye witnesses of the incident, the Engan, who was originally assaulted by three soldiers, was identified as a son of a soldier. Big Rooster shop, which is a part of the building, was lucky not to have incurred any damage but the incident caused them to lose business for the rest of the weekend as it remained closed, together with the service station.

The manager on duty, Mr. Kelly Keps was lost for words as he was on duty 24 hours a day with very little sleep and could not believe the manner in which the soldiers took out their anger at him and his staff when they had nothing to do the brawl earlier on in the morning. "Manu Auto port is like a bus stop for the soldiers and we cannot understand why they picked on us when we did nothing to deserve that treatment. There was only female staff on duty and none of them were responsible in the bashing of the two soldiers. They should’ve have come and spoken to me about the incident and none of this would’ve happened", said Mr. Keps

He also added, "Two of my cashiers were hurt badly by shattered glass which the soldiers smashed to gain access to the shops cash takings which they took," he said.

The PNG Defence Force hierarchy could not be reached for comments last night, however the NCD and Southern region police commander Assistant Commissioner Fred Seekiot yesterday appealed to the Commander Officer of Taurama Barracks to bring in those involved to face the law.

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