By THOMAS HUKAHU
POLICE directives on Wednesday to stop civil society and non-governmental organisations from staging a protest march was for peace and safety of the city residents and business houses.
NCD-Central police commander ACP Awan Sete said peace, law and order was of paramount importance and would not be compromised at any cost.
Sete told reporters yesterday afternoon that the decision by police to stop the planned march from going ahead was made after carefully assessing the situation.
“The incidents in Goroka and Kainantu, as well as from intelligence reports of other interest groups and criminal elements joining in, warranted the decision we took to prevent the protest march from taking place,” he said.
Sete said the move to stop the march was not intended to curtail anyone’s constitutional rights to freedom of expression but to promote the rights of every man, woman and child to live in a safe and secure society.
He said it was rather unfortunate that the planned march affected some schools, government services and businesses in NCD.
Reports said some school children and workers had stayed home out of fear and anxiety regarding the march.
Sete and NCD metropolitan commander Chief Supt Fred Yakasa also thanked civil society groups, NGOs and the public for responding well to the announcement made by police to stop the march.
“We also thank the groups planning for the march for respecting our position at this time,” Yakasa said.
However, NGO activist and protest march leader Noel Anjo said NCD police had contradicted themselves when they stopped yesterday’s planned protest march.
He said planning for the march had taken months, only to be stopped at the 11th hour.
“I am terribly upset.
“The police failed to inform me,” Anjo told The National yesterday.
In Goroka and Kundiawa, separate peaceful marches were held where petitions were handed over the
people’s elected representatives to present to the prime minister and government.
In Goroka, Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Kela-Smith received the petition while Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Joe Mek Teine did the same for protesters in the Chimbu capital.
In one of the petitions, the protesters gave the government 24 hours to recall parliament and revisit the Environment Amendment Act among other issues.
Shops in Goroka and Kainantu reportedly closed yesterday while life in Kundiawa continued as usual.