By PETER WARI, the National PNG
A LINK PNG DHC-8 aircraft was burnt in a rage at Mendi Airport yesterday afternoon following an election petition decision for the provincial governor’s seat.
What remains of the aircraft are the wings.
Local police station commander Gideon Kauke told Radio New Zealand that police were guarding the aircraft to ensure there was no further damage.
But he said his team of about 10 policemen could not contain a mob of “uncountable numbers”, particularly after missiles were thrown, forcing them to retreat.
“We were guarding the plane but compared to them, we were outnumbered and they came from all directions, all corners. Missiles were thrown, bush knives were thrown,” Kauke said.
He said some of the protesters, angered by the court decision that favoured Governor William Powi yesterday in Port Moresby, continued to behave “menacingly” in Mendi as their numbers built up. Some were carrying guns.
The protesters also burnt down Powi’s house and the Mendi National and District Court House complex.
According to a senior public servant, who wished anonymity, the burning of the aircraft and buildings were planned and different groups went quickly to the areas they wanted to destroy and set fire on receiving the result of the court case.
“People at Mendi town were tipped off during the day so they ran in all directions in fear of their lives while others stood and wept openly seeing the vital services in flames,” the public servant said.
“Police could do nothing as they were outnumbered by the gangs that imitated the style used by people in African countries.”
The source said many public servants, especially those from Southern Highlands, left their homes in town and moved into villages with relatives for fear of threats and intimidation.
Nipa-Kutubu MP Jeffery Komal condemned the action and said when the country was a few weeks away from the Apec meeting, such events painted a bad image of the country.
“Just last November, Wild Cat, formerly known as Carson Pratt Services that had served the province for many years, was burnt to ashes and many valuable properties were looted and damaged and other important services were destroyed and closed,” Komal said. “Then we faced the 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February. While the people were slowly rebuilding their lives, we sadly face the burning down of some very important services people desperately needed.”
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament said all MPs of the province must now stand together to support police and Defence work to make sure the perpetrators were identified and locked up.