Stability of PNG Election Threatened by Aliens & Anti-Chinese Feeling

There was a significant but relatively unreported incident amongst foreign media which occurred on Friday last week in the normally placid PNG town of Rabaul, East New Britain (ENB) Province.

The incident involved one of East New Britain’s most senior statesman, Sir Ronald ToVue, a former Premier and current Chairman of both Nonga Hospital as well as the ENB Autonomy Committee, and Chinese store supervisor and citizen Joey Xeng.

According to media reports, Sir Ronald (79) had gone to buy a 5kg bag of rice from Topkai Store (also known as Garden Enterprises), a Rabaul-based trade store managed by the ever-expanding Chinese owned and operated Zero Group of companies. After purchasing the bag of rice, Sir Ronald saw Chinese store supervisor Joey Xeng smoking while sitting on a stack of copra bags within the store.

Sir Ronald approached Xeng and informed him that it was illegal to smoke in a public place, including stores, to which Xeng responded by punching Sir Ronald.

The public’s response was harsh, and despite Sir Ronald pleading with them to not take the matter into their own hands, they responded to the non-cooperation of Topkai Store in not handing Xeng over to police immediately, by stoning and looting the business.

In commenting on the incident, Sir Ronald observed that the incident was only the tip of the iceberg as there were many more new Chinese entering PNG:

“Foreigners should know and be part of and appreciate our system and abide by our laws and system in PNG.

I have big respect for Chinese people that grew up in ENB three to four generations ago who have respect for our laws and customs, taken part in development in the province.

It is only those new foreigners that come and want to look down on Papua New Guineans in their own land.

If the Chinese is found guilty and convicted then I will request the government to deport him so that it will ring the bell to other Chinese that they cannot get away with such and must respect the laws of PNG”.

Criticism from PNG’s burgeoning social media presence was equally condemnatory as the public’s reaction to the incident, but was heavily tinged with racial sentiments focused on PNG’s old and new Chinese.

Commentators from the close to 800 member Facebook Group East New Britain Today were the most severe with member’s responses ranging from the acceptable:

“The old Chinese from Rabaul and their families are more respected PNGc citizens than all this new aliens who in most cases subsides to illegal ways of making money at our citizens exploitation while we watch and do nothing much. This guy should be investigated more and of found wanting than he should be deported from PNG.”

Another:

“I have nothing against the naturalized citizens in PNG who respect our laws, our people & our culture, but for the life sucking money hungry leaches who think that they can make a quick buck off our ignorance & subtlety, better think again… This generation is not quite the same as the previous, especially in ENB.”

And:

“These new Chinese are economic colonisers of PNG, taking over even the most basic businesses. Many pay bribes to Politicians, and are therefore protected. A lot are illegal immigrants, and they use one passport for a dozen people (coz they all look the same, haha). Immigration must investigate properly all their paperwork, and expel those illegals.

To the more worrisome:

“My nice people in ENB,Rabaul town n Kopex,wat r u guyz waitin for?,protest!.mobilise na rausim ol physically….it’s 1 of our prominent leader being punch,damn its a big issue!”

And:

“Deport him pluss the whole lot..we are capable of doing what they are doing in our beautiful province…they are very onces that will fuck up our econommy where you and i will struggle in getting it back on track…rausim ol b4 its too late.”

And:

“Is Joey Xeng dead yet?, if not he should be, before you all kill him, break every bone in his skinny weedy body,how dare he raise a hand against a man like Sir Ronald and have the audacity to punch him, because Sir Ronald spoke about his unlawful smoking, do it when you can,tok pinis nau.”

And:

“No bloody respect for the old man. That kongkong should be taught a lesson. Painim haus blong em and burn it to the ground & send him back to where he came from.”

And:

“Da only option in this situation right now is DEPORTATION. I dont see any other options apart from deportation. *Anti-asian*.”

Despite the context of the incident involving Sir Ronald, PNG is not new to this type of anti-Asian feeling.

In September 2007, Mount Hagen was brought to a standstill when looters ransacked multiple Chinese-owned businesses.

This was followed by further incidents in May 2009 when Chinese-owned shops and offices were looted in Port Moresby and Lae amid simmering anti-Chinese sentiment as a result of a fight between Chinese and Papua New Guinean workers at the $1.4 billion Ramu Nickle mine.

In responding to China’s request for PNG to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and companies in the 2009 attacks on Chinese immigrants, then PNG Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister, Sam Abal, told media he had called on the Chinese government to help eradicate what he called “bad apples” breaking PNG’s laws.

He went to to further state:

“Local citizens are angry with people who don’t have proper licenses, don’t speak English and they are running the small shops, or doing activities the Papua New Guineans should be doing, which seems legitimate to me.”

Such conceptions are also not exclusive to PNG. There were preceding anti-Chinese riots in the Pacific with both Honiara in Solomon Islands and Nuku’alofa in Tonga sustaining massive casualties to Chinese owned and operated businesses.

What is telling about both the Honiara and Nuku’alofa riots is that they both had elements of political tension and anti-Chinese feeling boiling together in a dynamite pot of public frustration and discontent.

The rioting in Solomon Islands started as a result of the appointment of a new Prime Minister, Snyder Rini, who was accused of being too closely linked to former Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza’s allegedly corrupt administration.

Demonstrators also accused Rini of using money from Solomon Islands-based Chinese and Taiwanese backers to bribe MPs into voting for him.

Similar instances of Chinese immigrants and ‘triads’ bribing or coercing officials and influencing key decision making outcomes on issues of national significance are also on the rise in PNG, with the recently O’Neill-appointed taskforce investigating illegal foreign activities in the country making a significant breakthrough on Friday.

There is no doubt that there exists within PNG serious strands of anti-Chinese feeling – and for understandable reasons. Incidents such as what happened to Sir Ronald ToVue only add to the feeling of discontent and resentment Papua New Guineans feel toward Asians.

With the issuing of the Writs yesterday kicking off the 2012 PNG General Elections, elements of political tension and anti-Chinese feeling are a very possible and absolutely volatile combination of ingredients, which if left unchecked, have the potential to threaten the success of elections and the nation’s future.

~ by Tavurvur on May 19, 2012.

4 Responses to “Stability of PNG Election Threatened by Aliens & Anti-Chinese Feeling”

  1. I think that, this act taken by that chinese fellow is not right.His action clearly states that we are foreigners in our own land. We shouldnt let them think of us like that and even treat us as foreigners in our own land. These chinese are illegally operating in PNG with their counterfeit products and even unhygienic restaurent conditions. They see PNG as a great opportunity for them to do business activities and thus they are also competiting with our local business people with their cheap products. I think they should be deported back to their own country as soon as possible before they influence our economic, polictical and social activities and cause a lot of problems for us .

    • Thanks Jacina – you highlight the ongoing issue of ‘cottage businesses/enterprises’ which are reserved for PNG nationals only, being illegally taken over and exploited by non-PNG citizens, particularly Asians.

      This is indeed a problem, and I fear it will only take a small incident like Sir Ronald’s assault, that could lead to much greater repercussions on a national level.

  2. An excellent report, very even-handed on a controversial subject. For those parts of PNG with less exposure to the old Chinese community of PNG, which remains an important part of PNG history, Asians are beginning to all look alike. Unfortunately, the shop assistants who have come to PNG to make enough money to pay for families back home are not the real enemy. They’re stupid, naive and bigoted many times. Disrespectful of the laws. But the State of China now owns interest in PNG and as we saw during the Ramu Niko trial, they can grease enough palms to overcome all environmental and social mores–even those of the most stalwart defenders of PNG, including its founding Chief. More discussion, more debate is needed!!!

    • It will be interesting to note what role China will play in the election – if any.

      On the separate issue of ‘Asians’ in PNG, I note that Simon Sia of Bingtagor fame is standing under the PNG Party banner for the EHP Provincial Seat. He will be up against Smith-Kela.

      If he succeeds, he will be the first naturalized ethnic-Asian to be elected to parliament.

      Are we following in the footsteps of Solomon Islands?

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