Lae, PNG Still Anxious After Two Days Of Unrest

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Roadblocks shut down airport as 1,000 protest street vendors

By Franco Nebas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 11, 2015) – Lae – the industrial hub of PNG – faces another anxious day today it takes stock of the damage of the past two days of Morobe youth unrest which has reportedly claimed the life of one man.

Without official confirmation from police and political leaders that the situation has returned to normal, the city can only reflect on various law and law and order and political issues of the past four weeks which sparked the unplanned protest by settlement youths on Monday. Yesterday, all flights into Lae were disrupted in fear of passengers and staff safety following the protest yesterday that resulted to road blocks set up by disgruntled parties in two different section of the Lae-Nadzab Highway.

[PIR editor’s note: PNG Post-Courier reported that ‘Protests in Lae, Morobe Province, caused a standstill in air traffic in and out of Lae City yesterday as villagers blocked off Yalu Bridge and Nadzab market. ... With having only one highway linking Lae City to the rest of Papua New Guinea, roadblocks in these strategic locations have effectively isolated Lae. ... Unfortunate highway travellers and air passengers caught on either side of the road blocks were unable to reach their destinations as traffic was deadlocked indefinitely.’]

Early yesterday morning, Engan settlers, reacting to the death of their kinsman at the hospital, set up road block at 4 Mile (Raicoast market) stopping the flow of traffic.

The road block turned nasty with some vehicles having their windscreen smashed and many left stranded on the highway, especially those returning from the airport.

Police had to be called in to disperse the group.

In a different twist, local Yalu villagers blocked off the Yalu Bridge that connects Lae city demanding the Government to address its grievances.

While this was happening, youths numbering more than 1000 gathered at Bumayong and started the protest march, joined by fellow Morobe youths from the Telikom suburb, Back Road, Senta market, Busu compound, Busulum, Hunter, Butibam, Yanga and Bumbu who all marched towards the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium.

Police and PNG Defence Force personnel escorted the protesters through China Town to the stadium in fear of opportunists carrying out raids on shops and innocent bystanders. Morobe Governor Kelly Naru, Lae MP Loujaya Kouza, Kabwum MP Bob Dadae and Morobe provincial administrator Patilias Gamato with other Morobe leaders were at the stadium to receive the petition from the youths giving them seven days to respond.

The youths had petitioned relevant Government authorities to respond to their claims, including the total ban of street vendors and the removal of all Asian-operated shops. Governor Kelly Naru assured the people that their grievances will be addressed and called for peace to allow business to return to normalcy.

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