By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
ACCUSATIONS over the theft of a mobile phone triggered an ethnic clash in which a man died, forcing the closure of businesses in a busy Port Moresby suburb yesterday, police say.
National Capital District Metropolitan Superintendent Perou N’dranou confirmed the death of Atai Leana Vaburi of Wanigela village in Central.
He said the clash yesterday which forced shops and the popular Koki fish market to close was between the people from Hela and those from Wanigela in Central.
It began at around 4pm on Sunday when a woman from Wanigela complained that her phone had been stolen.
A security guard from Hela accosted the thief and retrieved the phone which he handed back to the woman.
But the Wanigela people, suspecting that the security guard himself was the thief, assaulted him.
The guard sought help from his Hela people at Koki and a fight ensued, in which Vabiru died.
Met Supt N’dranou said the fighting died down on Sunday at about 10pm after the Wanigela leaders intervened.
“However the clash erupted again this (yesterday) morning at 6am forcing the closure of shops and the markets,” he said.
“There was stone-throwing and people chasing each other around the shops and bus stops.
“Police officers intervened and stopped the fighting from escalating.”
Police Minister Bryan Kramer and Moresby South MP Justin Tkatchenko also helped in stopping the fighting.
Wanigela village councillor Tommy Mano said there was a clash earlier between them and the people of Goilala in Central.
Met Supt N’dranou said the Hela people at Koki had identified who caused Vabiru’s death and would hand him over to police.
“The fight leading to the death is due to the misunderstanding between the Goilala, Hela and Wanigelas,” he said.
He said other people were injured during the clash.
In the meantime, police are on the ground monitoring the situation.
“We have also advised shops to close for the day until we assess the situation. We are here to ensure that the situation cools off.”