Unrest In PNG's Wewak As Sir Michael Somare Prepares To Leave Politics

Threats of arson on East Sepik provincial assembly; restive crowds demand payments from outgoing Governor

By Gabriel Fito

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 29, 2017) – There is trouble in the East Sepik capital Wewak as Governor Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare prepares to bow out of active politics shortly.

The East Sepik provincial assembly at the Wharf Road and the provincial administration at Kreer Heights came under tight police security since Monday night following threats issued to Sir Michael’s office in Port Moresby by an unknown caller of a planned arson at the provincial assembly.

Provincial police commander superintendent Peter Philip said yesterday officers from the provincial assembly, the Governor and deputy governor’s office removed all valuables from the offices and the place was empty with security officers and police guarding the area till yesterday.

In another twist of events, a big crowd of men, women and youths swelled up outside the provincial assembly yesterday morning starting at 8am and would have turned rowdy if police had not intervened.

Armed policemen under the supervision of Supt Philip, station commander Senior Inspector Sengi Laki and Inspector James Baugen barricaded the target area and diverted the crowd to an unmarked area under the rain trees where Supt Philip managed to address them and calm down the situation.

He heard from the crowd that they were there to demand their payments for various projects, activities and for their loyalty and unwavering support for Sir Michael during his distinguished political career.

"The situation would have turned chaotic if I had not reacted swiftly because the multitude was all frustrated and would have faced a confrontation with police guarding the provincial assembly.

"They alleged that an officer from the Governor’s office advised them to come today.

They alleged every time they come, officers keep telling them to come next day or next week and they are all fed up.

"After checking everything at the provincial assembly and communicating with the Governor I met the disgruntled party and told them to go away as their gathering was unlawful and at the same time Sir Michael was in Port Moresby for the Parliament sitting and they were only wasting their time hanging around there."

One elderly man who was among the crowd said he was seeking compensation for loyalty to Sir Michael and reimbursement of his 50 cents membership fee for Pangu Pati when Sir Michael launched the party in Wewak at the start of his political career.

The situation has improved yesterday afternoon but police are still combing the area.

PNG Post-Courier
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