Hungry Western Highlanders Steal Relief Supplies In PNG

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

Villagers allege district office didn’t distribute aid for 3 months

By James Apa Gumuno

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 26, 2016) – Hungry villagers in the Tambul-Nebilyer district of Western Highlands broke into the Tambul district administration building and stole relief food supplies on Sunday, police say.

Provincial police commander Chief Superintendent Martin Lakari said hundreds of villagers stormed the district officer despite the presence of police officers there on Sunday morning.

"Thirteen policemen guarding the district headquarters were outnumbered and watched helplessly as villagers came out with bags of rice, cartons of tinned fish and cooking oil," Lakari said.

He said 2700 10kg bags of rice, 1600 cartons of tinned fish and cooking oil had been taken.

The storage area was empty yesterday.

Lakari said the hungry villagers claimed that the relief supplies had been kept in the office for three months and not distributed to them.

He said the last relief supplies they received were in August, which only lasted them for two weeks.

Lakari said that led to the build-up of anger and frustration, prompting them to come in big numbers and forcefully take the food.

He said the villagers made six attempts the previous night to break into the district office but the police officers managed to chase them away. He said on Sunday morning, the people from the 17 council wards gathered and marched to the district office.

Meanwhile, Lakari condemned the actions of the villagers who should have respected the authorities.

Provincial disaster coordinator Robin Yakume said he had heard about the incident and would find out what happened.

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