Rampaging mob attacks PM O’Neill’s interests – ‘warlords’ take over Mendi

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The online cover for the Post-Courier story today. Image: PMC

By Johnny Poiya and Jeffrey Elapa in Port Moresby

A rampaging crowd has attacked Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s official vehicle and business interests in Mendi, Southern Highlands Province.

The Toyota LandCruiser V8 vehicle was stolen, and construction and mining logistics company Wildcat Construction base looted and torched on Saturday afternoon.

Another company, South West Air’s airport hangar, was ransacked although its fleet of fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft had been moved elsewhere earlier.

The LandCruiser was among 10 vehicles, including an excavator, backhoe and grader, stolen by a rampaging crowd that had ran amok through the town.

An expatriate manager was rescued by bystanders when the Prime Minister’s premises were attacked.

The Wildcat Construction and South West Air are the two biggest locally owned companies in the province that employees many locals and foreigners.

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The attack followed the declaration of William Powi as Governor of Southern Highlands Province last Thursday.

O’Neill blamed over election
Witnesses in Mendi yesterday said the rampaging crowd blamed O’Neill for the long delay in counting and eventual declaration of Powi as Governor.

All government services and businesses were closed and Mendi town was quiet and deserted yesterday.

The police station gate was locked with chain while the hospital, post office and Bank South Pacific were also closed.

Traffic along the Southern Highlands section of the Highlands Highway was scarce.

Senior public servants and a policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said all facilities and business house like the bank, shops, airlines and schools, besides the provincial administration, had shut operations in fear of violence.

They said Air Niugini and South West Air, which lost computers and aircraft parts, have closed their operations for an indefinite period.

The former Carson Pratt Services workshop at Wara Maigani, now owned by Wildcat Construction, was burned down while the main Papindo Supermarket was looted.

Two policemen shot dead
“Also on Saturday afternoon, two policemen were shot dead while another was seriously wounded and is now admitted at the Mt Hagen General Hospital.

Two teachers were with the policemen when attacked; one of them had his hands chopped off while his colleague is still missing.

It was reported that gates at the Mendi General Hospital and the Mendi School of Nursing  were rammed while the staff were threatened.

Public servants and schools in Mendi, including Mendi Day Secondary Schools, have all been affected.

Sources said police in the province have sought refuge with the candidates, allowing criminals to take over the town, firing guns indiscriminately.

Southern Highlands Governor William Powi condemned the actions of the minority who continue to take the law into their hands.

He said it was the work of the police to maintain law and order but the province had been taken over by warlords.

Condolences sent
Sending his condolences to the families of the two police based in Koroba, Enga Province, killed and the wounded, Powi said he did not understand the motive of the killings.

“I send my condolences to the families of those attacked. We have no issue with Hela and the attack on innocent people is unacceptable. I call on the police hierarchy to arrest people involved in instigating violence and denying freedom of the citizens,” he said.

He said it was only a handful of people from Mendi who were sabotaging peace and harmony in the town.

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