By JEFFREY ELAPA
ALL business houses and offices in Madang were closed yesterday as employees joined residents in a peaceful protest march against the rise in violent crimes in the town.
The protest march comes after the recent rape of an elderly expatriate woman and an increase in law and order problems in recent years.
Crimes like rape, robbery, cold-blooded murders, armed hold-ups and intimidation and harassment of innocent people have become frequent in a town that was once called “beautiful Madang”.
Several expatriate volunteers engaged with different non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Government organisations met soon after the attack on the long-time expatriate resident and are .
Early yesterday, all services in the town were shut as employees and employers took part in the peaceful protest that started from the Bates Oval in town and travelled along the Modilon Road to the provincial government office to petition the Government to address the law and order issues.
Only the three banks and the post office remained open.
The protest march, one of the biggest marches ever held in Madang, was organised by women’s groups and involved employees of business houses, corporate groups, NGOs, expatriates, public servants, housewives and concerned fathers, youths and children.
As the 1,000 plus people walked past the hospital, they chanted “PHQ Compound, stopim rascal pasin na stopim rape” (PHQ Compound, stop rape and other criminal activities), referring to the youths living at the provincial health office and hospital employees’ living compound.
They also chanted “Kilim rapist i dai na stopim rape” (Kill all rapists to stop rape) and carried placards that read “Men raise you sons to respect women”, “Capital punishment is a joke” and “Stop rape and increase penalty”.
The marchers said the rise in crime was affecting them and they no longer felt safe in their homes or while walking the streets.
Women speakers called on the Government to put to death people convicted of rape.
This is the second time that women have staged a peaceful protest to petition the Government to change the law on rape and adultery.
They also demanded a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol, and all illegal activities like homebrew and marijuana.
They want a curfew and want all illegal settlers evicted.
Those who were present to receive the petition were Governor Sir Arnold Amet, Member for Sumkar Ken Fairweather, Member for Bogia and Minister for Agriculture John Hickey, Member for Usino-Bundi Samson Kuli, provincial police commander Chief Insp Anthony Wagambie Jr, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Stotick Kamya and the provincial administrator Joseph Dorpar besides other senior public servants.
Sir Arnold said the provincial executive council (PEC) would meet and address the issues raised and many of them had already been decided during an urgent PEC meeting last Thursday.