One civilian hero and many bad cops

Editorial, Main Stories

A WEEK back, the newspapers reported a commotion at the Koki market in NCD.
There was a stone-throwing session which went on for hours between two groups of people from Goilala and Wanigela, both from the Central province.
The commotion began in this manner. A Goilala youth snatched a bag from a highlands woman who was shopping at the market. The bag contained, she later claimed, about K400.
Bag snatching has been going on for a long time all over the city, and throughout the country, and certain groups of people have grown tired of this. Consequently, entire crowds of people are bashing up pickpockets and bag snatchers in cities like Mt Hagen.
Anyway, in the Koki incident, a youth from Wanigela saw the bag being snatched from the woman who was a complete stranger to him. He chased the Goilala youth and a fight soon erupted between the two.
It turned out that the rescuer got the worst end of the stick and the thief escaped with the bag.
All this happened within a stone’s throw from Koki village, which is the Wanigela stronghold. Indeed, the Wanigela people control the market and attempt to keep peace in and around the area.
They mobilised and chased the Goilala youths out onto the main road where a pitched stone-throwing battle lasted several hours in see-saw fashion with both groups advancing and retreating up and down the street.
Shops closed their doors, traffic was brought to a standstill and the spectacle brought a large crowd to watch.
Police were also drawn to this battle.
A 10-seater Toyota Landcruiser loaded with uniformed policeman with semi-automatic weapons stopped at the fringes of the battle.
Eyewitnesses claimed that several policemen jumped off from the vehicle with their weapons but slung them casually at their sides and proceeded to watch the battle before them.
After almost 20 minutes, or so, the police drove up the wrong side of the lane and disappeared up the 2-Mile Hill.
A second police vehicle from the Badili station arrived and separated the two sides, finally containing the situation.
Two points must be made from this incident.
The first is the heroic action of the Wanigela youth.
Here, we see a lone youth who comes to the defence of a woman who was a total stranger to him.
To him, it was not whether or not he knew the person wronged but the criminal deed he wanted to get rid of.
He did so at great risk to his own life and, it turned out later, he was beaten up badly. Had his people not intervened, he might have suffered a worse fate.
This is heroic, but rare stuff in this country. This country would be so much better if there were more of this kind of youths around.
It reminds one of the Goroka youth who single handedly chased off a number of men in the process of raping a woman, and he got stabbed for his heroic deed.
In this incident, the youth was awarded a medal for bravery by then prime minister Sir Julius Chan.
Perhaps, a similar award ought to be given to the Wanigela youth and a permanent award be introduced in future for bravery by ordinary people against tremendous odds, and at risk to their lives.
It would bring more life to the meritorious awards system which is becoming tiresome now and, as some say, a “buddies’ award”.
As a crime victim once said: “99% of people in this country are good people. Only 1% are criminals. The tragedy is that the 99% allow the 1% to terrorise them.”
How true. More heroic deeds by people like the Wanigela youth will slowly force the raging tide of crime and terror to recede.
The second point is, of course, obvious: The action by the policemen in the first police car.
If what was happening before them was not a disturbance of peace at the very least, then it would have to take bomb explosions to wake them up to the fact that something unlawful is unfolding.
Compare this with those policemen who use their automatic weapons to gun-butt mothers selling betelnut on street corners, and you get a very ugly picture about PNG policing and its sense of priorities.