Two Dead After PNG Police Chase Street Peddlers in Mt. Hagen

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Police claim ‘failure to follow rules’ resulted in deaths

By Yvonne Haip

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 30, 2012) – Two men are dead as Mt. Hagen police in Papua New Guinea used guns to disperse a crowd and stop street sales in town last Friday.

Police fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd trying to protect the street vendors who were being chased by the officers. The bodies of the two men were lying motionless on the ground when the crowd dispersed.

The incident took place between 5pm and 5:30pm at the Mendi bus stop.

Police were conducting their normal patrol to stop street sales of store items, betel nut and cigarettes.

A group of officers went to China town, opposite the Rainbow supermarket, to remove youths conducting sales there.

When the sellers spotted the police vehicle, they fled. Police gave chase and caught some of the sellers. But the crowd at the main bus stop in town slowed them down.

The officers, while trying to disperse the crowd, fired shots into the air. As the frightened crowd scattered, two bleeding bodies were lying on the ground near the police and their car.

Highlands divisional commander Chief Supt. Teddy Tei confirmed that the two were shot. The identity of one of them was yet to be confirmed.

He said the failure by people to follow rules had resulted in the death of two innocent youths.

The crowd watched as police asked youths watching nearby to help them load the two bodies on the police vehicle. They were taken to the Mt. Hagen General Hospital.

While some yelled and jeered at the police officers, others took the opportunity to stone shops and business houses in China town. This was brought under control by police reinforcements.

Wamp Nga Haus, a locally-owned two-storey office complex, had most of its glass windows on the upper floor smashed.

People waiting for buses fled for their lives as police fired warning shots. They were later seen at the service station near the Highlander junction waiting for PMVs.

Tei has tasked provincial police commander Supt. Kaiglo Ambane to investigate the incident and see who was at fault.

He said if officers had shot the youths, and if those implicated had acted beyond their powers, they would be investigated.

Tei said all were aware of the law and that streets sales were illegal.

Police, the city authority and Hagen Kona Kai team, had been enforcing it.

On Saturday morning, relatives of the one of the dead men blocked off a section of the highlands highway but were later stopped by community leaders.

Hospital staff also confirmed that the two had bled to death after sustaining pellet wounds, and their remains were placed at the hospital’s morgue.

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