Rioting, looting follow death of beloved Papua New Guinea ex-PM Somare

Sir Michael Somare died of pancreatic cancer on Friday. PHOTO: AFP

PORT MORESBY (AFP) - Papua New Guinea security services called for calm on Monday (March 1) as incidents of rioting and looting followed the death of a beloved former prime minister.

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

Several stores were reportedly ransacked during a national day of mourning for the country's first prime minister and "father of the nation", Sir Michael Somare, who died of pancreatic cancer on Friday. He was 84.

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

Mr 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.

Known across the country simply as "The Chief", Mr Somare led Papua New Guinea at independence from Australia in 1975 and was prime minister for a total of 17 years, during three separate terms.

A national holiday had been declared to commemorate his passing, forcing businesses to close in the nation of nearly nine million people.

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.

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