The National –Wednesday, January 5, 2011
By PISAI GUMAR
A STATE minister’s high covenant family home at 4-Mile in Lae, Morobe, was burnt to ashes during an ethnic clash on Monday afternoon.
Public Service Minister and Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina, who was born and raised in Lae, was not at home.
Police said the incident happened at about 3.30pm after they had contained a nasty gun battle that morning.
Lae metropolitan commander Supt Nema Mondiai could not confirm the number of casualties, adding only that “the wounded were from both sides”.
He said an angry mob, alleged to be from one faction, went to Maladina’s home and set it alight.
According to police reports, the minister’s family was innocent and had no part in the conflict that morning.
Mondiai had instructed the police officer in-charge of criminal investigations to immediately conduct a thorough investigation.
According to police reports, the gunfight that morning had started over a bag of betelnut at the 4-Mile bus stop.
Western Highland’s community leaders said one of their men had been dropped off with three betelnut bags at the bus stop from Madang the previous evening.
A passerby, alleged to be a settler from Lufa, grabbed one of the bags and walked away.
The owner pursued the thief and demanded that it be returned but failed. A fight erupted and others joined in.
The Western Highlands leaders said the 4-Mile community was tired of being harassed and accosted by the Lufas, who they blame for all the troubles.
They added that the uprising was conducted by “a mixture of people from the Momase, Highlands, New Guinea Islands and Papua regions who stood up to defend themselves”.
Mondiai addressed the factions on Monday night and admitted that police was “going nowhere with issues arising from the area”.
Mondiai, who is deputy chairman of the provincial law and order committee, said measures were needed immediately to resolve these problems.
“The miles area, in general, should now be put under the spotlight because no one respects the authorities or the rule of law,” Mondiai said.
Police were monitoring the situation, which is quiet but tense.