By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
A fight broke out between PNG Defence Force soldiers and residents over the use of an automatic teller machine (ATM) in Daru, Western province on Saturday, South Fly police commander Inspector Soiwa Ricker said yesterday.
“The fight started at about 11.30am after two soldiers suspected to be drunk attempted to break a long line of customers queuing up to use the ATM to withdraw money,” he said.
“However, the rest of the customers were not happy about the soldiers’ aggressive behaviour as most of them had been patiently standing in the queue under the hot sun for a long time.
“There are only two ATMs here and the place was full of villagers. These villagers are from the areas along the Fly River who were affected by the Ok Tedi mining.
“They are in town to get their annual compensation payment from the damage done to their villages from the build-up of sediments in the river.
“The buildup sediments had caused floods that damaged their villages and gardens”.
Ricker said some of the frustrated villagers confronted the soldiers, resulting in a fight.
“These two soldiers sustained minor facial injuries and returned to their camp and mobilised their friends.
“This group of armed soldiers returned to where the fight had started and opened fire into the air.
“The discharging of firearms caused panic and people fled in all directions.
“Some people sustained minor injuries when fleeing.”
Ricker said police intervened and calmed the situation.
“These soldiers are on border patrol duty and are based at their supply camp in Daru,” he said.
“They supply food and other items for their comrades based in the Weam border station along the Papua New Guinea-Indonesian border.”
Ricker expressed concern about the soldiers’ behaviour.
He said he will also send a report about the incident to the police border divisional commander assistant commissioner Donald Yamasombi and the PNG Defence Force hierarchy at Murray Barracks, Port Moresby, to take disciplinary action against the soldiers involved.
By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK