Angry text messages target Chinese in PNG
ANTI-CHINESE sentiment is flaring in Papua New Guinea during a week of political turmoil, with widely circulated text messages calling for the public to ”forcefully evict” Chinese from the country if former leader Sir Michael Somare returns to power, says the Sydney Morning Herald.
”The Somare regime existed through Asian mafia’s fundings … PNGians will be slaves of Somare family and Asians. Declare war against Asian influx,” the messages read in part. They are spreading virally ahead of today’s Supreme Court decision on whether the current government, led by Peter O’Neill, took power legitimately after 75-year-old Sir Michael stood aside while undergoing medical treatment in June.
Some observers are tipping the return of the former government, dominated by the wily leader from the Sepik River region, which could trigger a backlash from Highlanders who support the new Highlander-led regime under Mr O’Neill.
The anti-Chinese messages are the latest in a series of flash protests triggered by widespread uptake of mobile phones in PNG, ranging from ethnic clashes to street marches against corruption.
Police have brought in extra officers from across the nation and set up roadblocks near Parliament and the courts.
”We will be out in full force. We expect something will happen in anything to do with politics,” said a police spokesman.
A series of anti-Chinese riots have taken place across PNG since 1999, driven by resentment of new migrants. At least six Chinese migrants have been killed in the last decade.
Chinese-owned stores were looted across the country in May 2009, sparked by an anti-Chinese march led by activist Noel Anjo.
Mr Anjo denied involvement in the text messages and said he now condemned anti-Chinese violence.
”Our people have seen Asians flooding into the country over the last 10 years without proper documentation,” he said. ”But looting Asian shops is the work of opportunists and won’t solve the problem.”
Thousands of poor mainland Chinese have obtained work permits illegally over the past decade, according to a 2008 report by Monash University’s Professor James Chin.
Outspoken Port Moresby blogger Martyn Namorong says PNG has become a tinderbox, with the proceeds of the current resource boom failing to reach people on the ground. ”The kids just need to strike the match,” Mr Namorong said.