Papua New Guinean security services yesterday called for calm, as incidents of rioting and looting followed the death of a beloved former prime minister.
Papua New Guinean Minister for Police William Onglo said that officers would “step in to fully restore order” after disturbances in Port Moresby and the second city of Lae.
Several stores were reportedly ransacked during a national day of mourning for the nation’s first prime minister and “father of the nation” Sir Michael Somare, who died of pancreatic cancer on Friday last week.
“Rioting is never our Melanesian way to show respect,” Onglo said in a statement.
Somare’s daughter, Dulciana, decried reports of “looting and property being destroyed,” urging compatriots to follow her father’s “composure and gentle ways.”
“My darling Dadda we are not ready for a Papua New Guinea without you in it,” she said.
Known across the nation simply as “The Chief,” Somare led Papua New Guinea at its independence from Australia in 1975 and was prime minister for 17 years, in three separate terms.
A national holiday had been declared to commemorate his passing, forcing businesses to close.
In one instance in Lae, an Asian-owned store appeared to have been specifically targeted.
Local media showed footage of dozens of people, including children, running from the store carrying snacks and bottles of drinks.
Several Asian-owned stores were raided last year, seemingly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Papua New Guinean Police Commissioner David Manning on Friday last week had warned against unrest, saying officers “throughout the country will be out in full force to ensure that opportunists do not take this sad day in our history to create fear and panic.”
Papua New Guinea is one of the poorest nations in the Pacific. Violent crime and social unrest are commonplace.
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