Cargo – mainly fruit drinks and cooking oil from the Chia Khim Lee Food Industries in Singapore worth thousands of kina – were shouldered home by the public in Arawa town.
Truckloads with the Asian products were seen leaving the premises of Arevai Trading where the Singapore-based wholesale company had opened its wholesale store a month ago.
In less than an hour all the cargo was gone, with everyone in Arawa town having a taste of the Asian products.
Mothers carried home their favourite cooking oil to fry fish and banana to sell at the Arawa market.
Among the fruit drinks and cooking oil, two motorcycles meant for the wholesale operations was loaded onto a waiting vehicle and driven off.
The looting was spearheaded and carried out by disgruntled ex-combatants who were not happy about the presence of the foreigners operating the wholesale business in Arawa town.
After a number of verbal warnings, the ex-combatants took action, closing the wholesale for good.
Just last week, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, through its Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry Wilfred Komba, defended the Singapore wholesale company saying that it had followed proper procedures and came through the ABG to do business in Bougainville, specifically Arawa.
He confirmed the ABG had given them the “green light” to come and do the wholesale business.
However, locals in Arawa, especially ex-combatants think otherwise.
Their resentment of the Asians in the former BCL township was high and resulted in the loot on Friday.
The police could not intervene.
According to observers at the scene, this was a clear sign that the ABG does not have control over the people on the ground and must not make decisions that will go against the people’s wishes.
“The people have already told the ABG, Asians or any foreigners must not come to Bougainville and do businesses that are already being carried out or run by Bougainvilleans.
“If they want to come, they must come and do big things like build factories or downstream processing. Things we cannot do. How many times will we tell our government this. This is the end result of the government’s negligence,” one observer said.
Other observers were not happy of the way the wholesale was looted saying there is a process to address such issues and the public should not resort to such actions.
The ABG, being the legitimate authority, needed to move fast to tighten up its policies on foreign investors coming into the region as soon as possible for the good of the foreign investors, Bougainvilleans and the region, an observer said.