An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories
'CRING..... Cring....!' It was the sound of the alarm on Peter's clock. It was 6 o'clock, 10 December 2013.
Peter switched off the alarm and prepared for the day. He pulled out his wallet, filled with cash earned from cocoa sold the previous day. He tucked it inside his bag and headed for the Tuonumbu village market in Kubalia to catch a 36 route PMV heading for Wewak.
It was the usual routine for the Kubalia people. They would pack their bilums with vegetables, sago, fruit, greens, betel nut and meat to supply Wewak market and make some money.
Peter was the last person to board the PMV before it left. He felt elated and calculated a shopping list. He pictured himself walking inside Tang Mow and packing goods into a basket.
The vehicle reached about 120 Km/h as the fresh morning breeze blew. Peter sensed the cold nature of the breeze entering the pores of his skin as his cells worked very hard to prevent cold.
After 15 minutes they reached Passam National High School. At Kambagora they passed another 36 route PMV which signalled them to stop. They were informed about the bashing of a Moem Barracks soldier by police officers.
"Everyone, there was a fight yesterday and an army officer from Moem Barracks is badly hurt. So be alert when you reach Wewak," said the other driver.
"Thanks for that," Peter’s driver responded, before turning to the passengers and asking, "Shall we go on to Wewak or return home?"
"I think we should go to Wewak," said a woman.
"What if there is a fight?" asked another woman, puffing on a smoke.
"Come on, small things, we can manage, let's go. I've wasted my fare not to see Kombex and return," added a man.
They argued back and forth and finally agreed to proceed to Wewak. Peter wasn’t worried either way. So they set off and reached Wewak at 6.25 a.m.
The vehicle stopped at the market and the passengers jumped off, unloaded their things and forgot about the talk they had heard at Passam.
Almost two hours passed and Peter was enjoying himself. Wewak was packed with people. It was nearly Christmas and Sepiks from around the country had returned home for the holidays.
As Peter walked towards Bank South Pacific he saw an old school friend from Brandi High School.
"Hi, Kaspar, it has been a long time," he said, hugging Kaspar. They had completed Grades 9 and 10 together in 1995.
"Yeah, buddy, I've been in Lae working at PNG Power. I got leave and wanted to spend it at home. This is my second week," replied Kaspar.
"Great bro, nice meeting you. It revives memories of our school days," Peter continued.
"Met as strangers and now friends for life," Kaspar smiled.
As Peter walked on to Tang Mow, he heard shouting and saw people running wildly. His mind clicked back to the rumours he had heard at Passam.
This was a riot; the soldiers had taken revenge. He felt a bit nervous and thought of how he could avoid the situation.
At the end of the road, he saw a convoy of three armoured vehicles packed with soldiers. A crowd followed the soldiers. They were hunting police officers!
Taking advantage of the situation, street youths and vendors began looting the stores and supermarket. Peter felt more confident now as he saw the soldiers weren’t harming the public.
He joined the crowd and the soldiers marched to the police station.
They knocked on the door of the police station and an officer came out, only to be punched to the ground. In that instant the crowd began throwing sticks, stones and bottles at the police building.
Peter tried his best to stay away from the action. The police ran into mangroves behind the building.
As Peter watched, he saw smoke rising from the police station. Someone had set it alight.
Peter felt sorry for the police officers and left the scene for Perigo, where his brother in law lived. He didn’t want to get caught up in a riot. When he arrived he was told that the Christian book shop had been looted totally leaving nothing on the shelves.
He spent a night with his brother in law and travelled home the next day.
Two days later, as Peter sat on the balcony of his house, he heard the Sepik Radio news.
Two days ago there was a riot in Wewak against the police by the Army and a crowd. The riot was due to the bashing of a drunk PNGDF soldier by police officers. The Army took revenge with the aid of general public burning down the police building.
Almost all shops were looted leaving the shelves empty. The Police yesterday took their revenge by chasing all the vendors and destroying their property.
Grand Chief Michael Somare has called for calm. He is asking both parties to remain neutral.
He will send an investigation team to look into the matter and punish the guilty.
Peter switched off the radio and walked into the house.