Asian shops looted in protest

Asian-owned shops in Buka were looted yesterday (April 20) over the illegal use of Bougainville’s iconic headdress.

According to eyewitnesses, the incident occurred around midday.

Reports from the ground state the issue stemmed from disgruntled locals from the Wakunai area of Central Bougainville, who were protesting the sale of merchandise with the iconic Upe, which originates from the area.

The Upe is worn by young men as they are initiated into adulthood, and is a respected and taboo symbol in the area.

Women are not allowed to wear the symbol.

However, due to the commercialisation of the symbol, this has seen it being printed on shirts, footwear and even on undergarments.

Buka resident, Paul Wagum, said: “People totally ransacked Solmal and another Asian-owned shop and you see hundreds of people just walking out with goods from the shops.

“People took anything from clothing to car tyres, boom boxes, mobile phones, in fact anything.”

He said Solmal was totally cleaned out of its stock and the windows and walls smashed.

“I am told that people, especially from Wakunai, were upset about the Upe being printed on thongs, bras, underwears etc, which they were selling in their shops.

“They were trying to break in, into the third shop but were talked out of it, I think by police.”

He further said the police were outnumbered and couldn’t do anything.

“People have dispersed but the situation remains tense.”

It is understood President John Momis convened an emergency secession of parliament to address the matter.

(Picture: Aloysius Laukai of New Dawn FM)

Meredith Kuusa