The National, Tuesday June 18th, 2013
By PETER ESOP WARI
POLICE in Southern Highlands have been told to clear the roadblock at Lai River bridge set up by locals who were protesting the looting of a locally-owned trade store.
Assistant Police Commissioner (Highlands) Chief Supt Teddy Tei ordered police in Southern Highlands to immediately clear the roadblock at the bridge.
Trucks transporting goods to and from the LNG project sites were among vehicles held up near the bridge in Tari.
“You cannot block the bridge and interrupt the multibillion kina PNG LNG project and the public at large.
“It is the national highway and the blockade must be removed within 24 hours,” he said.
Locals put a chain across the bridge after the store owned by Southern Highlander David Kelei was ransacked by a group of men following a dispute with police who had tried to stop them gambling at the market.
Police fired shots resulting in three men being admitted at Tari Hospital after receiving pellet wounds.
The group attacked the police and ransacked the store taking more than K100,000 cash and goods.
Tei said: “I condemn the action, both the culprits who triggered the problem in Hela and those staging the roadblock at River Lai bridge as narrow-minded and primitive.”
He said soldiers in the Highlands had been called in to assist police clear the blockade.
“I call on leaders in the province to intervene and negotiate to clear the blockade and if not agreed, I will bring in more police,” he said.
He said there were proper procedures to follow to address such issues.
“This is the only road to the project sites in Southern Highlands and Hela and their daily operations cannot be disrupted,” he said.
Meanwhile, public servants from Southern Highlands working in Hela have fled in fear of retaliation by the relatives of those wounded by police in Tari.
The Tari police station is temporarily closed but a police source said the situation was under control.
Julius Kapinias, principal of Kulanda Primary School, said two of his teachers from Mendi had to leave on Friday night.
He said innocent lives were put at risk by crimes created by others.