Friday, May 29, 2009


PNG activists vow to burn all Asian shops

PORT MORESBY, May 29 — Activists are threatening to burn all Asian shops as racial tensions escalate across Papua New Guinea.

The warning came as Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau accused the media in PNG of fuelling anti-Asian sentiment, and the Malaysian and Chinese consulates in Port Moresby issued safety warnings to their nationals.

Four people have been killed since rioting began this month with a fight between Chinese and PNG workers at the Ramu nickel refinery, which is owned by Chinese company Metallurgical Construction.

Rioting and looting have spread to Port Moresby and major provincial centres, with Asian-owned stores the main target.

An email by leading anti-Asian activist Cardo Stanzo has circulated widely in PNG.

The email calls on activists to be prepared to burn all Asian-owned businesses if Asians refuse to leave the country by the end of the year.

“Any Asian-owned shops, whether they are Chinese, Malaysian, Philippines, Indians, must and will come to a total stop by 31 December,’’ the email says. “We will celebrate 2010 New Year with bonfires of all Asian-owned shops all around the country.’’

Stanzo says in the email that government corruption and the sale of resources cheaply to Asian companies were the reasons for the anti-Asian sentiment sweeping the country.

An “Asian mafia’’ had set up illicit operations ranging from illegal gambling to prostitution, he says. Royalties from Asian mining and logging companies were being “spent left, right and centre by cronies’’, the email adds. “The majority of our politicians seem to dig deeply into Asian pockets.’’

The email said Asians were depriving Papua New Guineans of a significant income source by operating the bulk of small shops in the country.

Rimbunan Hijau has been accused by the World Bank, human rights activists and environmentalists of the widespread illegal logging of PNG rainforests.

Rimbunan managing director James Lau said the PNG media was fuelling anti-Asian sentiment and putting the lives of Asian people at risk.

“Coverage of the riots has used the ongoing violence to repeat baseless allegations made against Malaysian-owned businesses in PNG and, in particular, Rimbunan Hijau,’’ Lau said.

“This is reprehensible. We have loss of life and Malaysians fearing for their safety.

“Rather than attempting to defuse the situation, some commentators are making things more difficult for responsible businesses in PNG.’’

PNG Opposition Leader Mekere Morauta blamed the Government of Michael Somare for the unrest.

“The Government is allowing unskilled foreigners who cannot speak a word of English to take on businesses that only Papua New Guineans should be allowed to operate,’’ Mekere told The Australian.

“I deplore the use of violence but this is what can happen when a national government becomes far removed from its people.’’

Mekere said frustration was growing in the community about the lack of opportunities in small businesses and in the cottage industry.

The PNG parliament has formed a committee with MPs from all parties to investigate the rioting. An unemployment rate of up to 80 per cent across PNG has been identified as the cause for much of the unrest. — The Australian



Post a Comment

<< Home