Rioting, Looting Follows Death of Papua New Guinea Ex-Pm

Papua New Guinea's first prime minister and "father of the nation" Sir Michael Somare who died on February 26, 2021, aged 84, after what his family described as a brief battle with cancer. Image source: Hakon Mosvold Larsen|AFP

PORT MORESBY— Papua New Guinea security services called for tranquillity on Monday (March 1), as occurrences of rioting and looting followed the death of the former prime minister, Michael Somare.

Police Minister William Onglo cautioned the public that officers would “step in to fully restore order” after disturbances in Port Moresby and the second city of Lae.

Several stores were reportedly burglarized during a national day of mourning for the country’s first prime minister and “father of the nation”, who died of pancreatic cancer on Friday.

“Rioting is never our Melanesian way to show respect,” Onglo said in a statement.

Somare’s daughter Dulciana decried reports of “looting and property being destroyed” urging compatriots to follow her father’s “composure and gentle ways.”

“My darling Dadda we are not ready for a Papua New Guinea without you in it,” she said.

A national holiday had been declared to honour his passing, forcing businesses to close.

In one instance in Lae, an Asian-owned store appeared to have been specifically targeted.

Local media showed footage of dozens of people, including children, running from the store carrying snacks and bottles of fizzy drinks.

Several Asian-owned stores were raided last year, seemingly in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Police Commissioner David Manning on Friday had warned against unrest, saying officers “throughout the country will be out in full force to ensure that opportunists do not take this sad day in our history to create fear and panic.”

Papua New Guinea is one of the poorest nations in the Pacific. Violent crime and social unrest are commonplace.

Known across the country simply as “The Chief”,  Somare, a pivotal figure in Papua New Guinea’s independence and the south pacific Island nation’s first Prime minister was the longest-serving leader for 17 years during four separate periods.

He died February 26 after being diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer and admitted to hospital on February 19.