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Papua New Guinea

Official killed, tourists stranded in violent chaos

The chief executive officer of Papua New Guinea Ports Corporation Fego Kiniafa was killed over the weekend in what is believed to be a fight over a few bottles of beer.

This has led to a tense situation in Goroka town as houses and shops have been looted and razed in retaliation for the alleged killing. Tourists who were in Goroka for a PNG premier cultural event are now trapped.

PNG police commissioner David Manning confirmed the killing but declined to give details of the circumstances surrounding his death as police investigations were continuing.

Provincial Police Commander Michael Welly told media in PNG that Mr Kiniafa and business partner Conrad Manove were allegedly involved in a brawl which led to Mr Kiniafa shooting Mr Manove and killing him.

Burning houses in Goroka as situation is tense in PNG. Picture Carvers Mission Facebook
Burning houses in Goroka as the situation is tense in PNG. Picture: Carvers Mission Facebook

He said there was retaliation by Mr Manove’s people and Mr Kiniafa was attacked and as a result he lost his life. Four men who were with Mr Kiniafa had been taken hostage as well.

Fights between the village of the two that lost their lives have continued and there is unrest in the Eastern Highlands. Police said houses and buildings were set alight and shops looted.

Since then, police have been able to move in quickly and calmed situations however reports from the ground suggest that tensions are high and conflicts could start again.

Armed villagers in Goroka. Picture Daphne Pelgen Facebook
Armed villagers in Goroka. Picture: Daphne Pelgen Facebook

The incident has happened at a time when the Goroka Show was on and hundreds of tourists are now stranded as flights to Goroka have been stopped by Air Niugini because of the violence.

The Goroka Show is a well-known tribal gathering and cultural event in Papua New Guinea. It is a sing-sing held every year close to the country’s Independence Day (16 September) in the town of Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province.

About 100 tribes arrive to show their music, dance and culture. The festival started in the mid-1950s as an initiative of Australian Kiaps. In recent years it has become a major attraction for both national and international tourists and remains the largest cultural event in Papua New Guinea.

Stranded tourists at Goroka Airport. Picture Carvers Mission Facebook
Stranded tourists at Goroka Airport. Picture: Carvers Mission Facebook

A church group in Goroka called the Carvers Mission posted up on their Facebook page: “We are asking for prayers for the town of Goroka today. Violence has broken out around town in revenge for a murder of a senior public figure.

“A few houses around town have been burnt down including one opposite our Mission House in town. The situation is very tense with rumours of more trouble tomorrow. Please remember all our church members in prayer, as they could be targeted just by being related to the perpetrators.”

So far no arrests have been made.

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