ALL THE HULLABALOO AND HYPE on sorcery in recent times has been focused on the sorcery killers.
Almost all sectors of PNG society condemned the sorcery killings. The O’Neill government, riding on the wave of popular public outcry, has now repealed the Sorcery Act and passed new laws that will see sorcery killers facing the harshest penalty. Death.
This is fine as far as protecting the innocent is concerned. However, what hangs in limbo is the question of whether sorcery is real or just a myth.
If it is real, and the accused practitioner proven guilty by scientific means, for example DNA tests, can that person be held accountable?
Sorcery and sorcery killings are common throughout Papua New Guinea. People believe in sorcery. It has long been part of PNG’s culture and inheritance since prehistory.
Each culture has its own type of sorcery and sorcery practices.
In some cultures, people are using physical media like lime (kol kambang mainly in the New Guinea Islands and northern regions), barks or leaves of certain trees and plants, and carvings made of wood or stone (stone man of Pangia and Erave). In other cultures, they use non-physical supernatural spirits, called sanguma.
Sanguma (witchcraft) is the most predominant form of sorcery. It is believed to be responsible for most of the sorcery-related deaths that have been reported.
Sanguma is believed to be a person who presents in the form of an animal or insect of supernatural power. The spirit, through its supernatural power, enables the host to perform incredible acts mostly malevolent and harmful to humans.
The host, enabled by the supernatural power of the medium, can kill another human being by removing an organ or a vital body part. Alternatively, the sanguma can remotely control a person by causing fatal accidents and other acts.
Let me exemplify the judicial problem by building a hypothetical case.
A man is accused of killing a young woman through sanguma. The man is brought before a legally constituted council of witchdoctors in the presence of police, a judge and local authorities.
The council is told that the accused, using sanguma, removed the heart of a young woman and kept it in a dish of water and it can’t be put back.
To prove that the heart is actually missing, a post mortem is done on the corpse. The heart is missing, which is witnessed by all.
The authorities then ask the council if the heart can be brought before them. The dead heart is brought before the authorities in a dish.
A DNA test is done on the heart and the young woman. The result confirms that the heart belongs to the young woman.
What will happen to the sorcerer murderer? Should he be set free?