The day riots and looting shook Goroka

The shit hit the fan in Goroka this morning. Youths gathered in different parts of Town and unleashed their rage against Asian stores and property. The anger that has been welling up inside the “bel” of the average Papua New Guinean ignited in Port Moresby earlier this week and has since spread to other PNG towns such as Lae and Madang…

As I walked out the door this morning to catch a PMV  for a short visit and meeting at the village I was drawn to the not so distant roar of a mob. And as I got closer and realised what was going on I thought to myself… shit!! – forgot the camera! So I raced back home (starting to feel the adrenalin rush) – raced into the front door – told Eli what was going on – grabbed the camera and headed “60” out the door intent on getting back to West Goroka shops faster than a witch on a broom stick.

I remember thinking as I came around Papindo Corner and seeing an angry mob of people about 50 meters away – I’m either going to get some great shots here or “mi bai kisim traipela bagerup!”  (I’m headed for trouble here) and as I saw the police firing bullets and tear gas  I sensed that I was moving into a war zone. This is definitely a new feeling for me…. oblivious to the real danger – 100% focused on catching that one of a kind – award winning snap shot in time.

Why are Papua New Guineans angry? Why the sudden spread of rioting and looting so suddenly throughout major PNG towns? Why is the violent release of this pent up rage being aimed at Asians? These are all good questions and when one starts to dig a little deeper one will soon realise that all is not well in the Land of the Unexpected.

I landed this article last night in my newsreader – straight from the blog of Malum Nalu – respected PNG journalist and writer. Malum shared the following article written by an ex resident of Papua New Guinea. I re-read the article about six times – the author strikes the nail on the head and explains in a few but powerful paragraphs the core of what is and what could potentially rock the very foundations of this multi-tribal nation and society.

The rioting and looting by youths in Lae is graphic evidence of just what pressure is building up inside the “social sospen”- that big saucepan inside which dwells the  majority of PNG’s population; dwells with the lid firmly wedged on and the heat of impoverishment slowly increasing.

Years of the disgraceful “eyes-shut, pockets open” policy maintained by the authorities are now likely to be challenged by a growing unity in this

previously split, multi-tribal society. A  unity never engendered by  the fulsome words and flamboyant promises of “their lordships,” those who govern and administer in situations of personal security and comfort unseen and unimaginable to the boys who rioted in Lae.

Many have wondered over the years at the lack of any appearance of a youth-based radical political culture within this potentially-rich but desperately-underprivileged population. Usually tolerant and inclined to talk before acting, PNG’s people may have reached the point where an increasingly hard and frustrating life-situation pushes them to a tipping-point.

Those big houses and ‘permanent resident’ status in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere may soon prove to be very wise investments for their owners.”

Here’s a couple of photos to wet the appetite – including one by Joeri Kalwij taken this morning (might I add – from the comfort and protection of his vehicle). In the meantime I will aim to post the rest of todays photos from the action at West Goroka some time tomorrow and in this album.

Photo by Joeri of looting in West Goroka

Joeri in his own words explaining this photo he took driving through West Goroka this morning... "And… who do we see here taking pictures of it all? Isn’t that mr Robert Schilt getting some images for his blog? Haha! I beat you to it Rob!" (Photo courtesy Joeri Kalwij)


A group of youths gather at West Goroka

The "lads" gathering and doing there tribal war dance !! (Note the SP beer sign being carried away!!)


I was also pained to see the aftermath of destruction and the violence as it was being unleashed by the Highland’s youth and I felt for the asians who’s properties have now become targets to destructive forces.

A policeman about to let of a few rounds at West Goroka looting

I'm sure we would all agree that this copper deserved his pay today. The local police certianly had their work cut out for them this morning. Note that I didn't hang around to find out whether this constable got gassed!


And as I write this post we can hear a mob working away down at the Lopi end of town…

The Author

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