20 May 2009

PNG police urge restraint in bid to ease tensions

9:05 pm on 20 May 2009

Police in Papua New Guinea says they are appealing to people not to take the law into their own hands and say they hope common sense will prevail after days of anti-Chinese violence around the country.

They say the official death toll from the rioting and looting is one, though one local newspaper says as many as four looters have been shot.

The violence began when an anti-Asian demonstration in Port Moresby a week ago turned ugly, although a violent rampage against Chinese workers at the Ramu nickel mine in Madang two weeks ago has been linked to the latest spate of attacks.

Despite the spread of the violence through half a dozen Highlands towns, a police spokesman, Superintendent Dominic Kakas, says they have control.

"We have actually tightened our security in most of these towns, like in Mt Hagen, for instance, we have got a full police presence there. And we are right now dispersing crowds from congregating and so we are maintaining control, yes."

Mr Kakas says many of the people involved are opportunists whose primary aim is to loot.

But the Opposition Leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, says a feeling of anxiety and frustration and being ignored by the government, has sparked the violence.