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Kainantu roadblock characterises law & order breakdown

Destruction at the Barola road block (EMTV)BOMAI D WITNE

THE brutal murder of a young Kainantu secondary schoolteacher by a Public Motor Vehicle bus crew between Kainantu and Lae on the twelfth of this month caused road blocks between the Barola Hill and Kainantu sections of the Okuk Highway.

Angry relatives and tribesmen of the deceased demanded an explanation for the murder and the road block affected many people and organisations doing business along the highway.

A few betel nut traders who were bringing betel nut to Goroka and other highlands provinces are making windfalls. A betel nut that would normally sell for 50 toea is now fetching K2.50.

Old habits die hard, the highlands people are aggressive betel nut chewers. And they go for the expensive nuts.

It is anyone’s guess how the prices of other goods will be affected in the next few days if the road block continues.

Rumours have it that different incidents linked to the murder and roadblocks have developed in Lae and elsewhere. The University of Goroka has sent a strong security warning to its staff and students on the issue. Other organisations in Goroka and elsewhere may have done the same.

The incident directly affected a number of a hardworking staff from the Language and Literature Division at the University of Goroka who were travelling with 24 students to Madang to attend and present papers at an International Linguistic Conference hosted at Divine Word University. They were turned back at Henganofi station, before Barola.

Informing the University of Goroka on the disruption to the trip, Anne Marie Wanamp, who spearheaded the fund raising and worked hard to expose students to this conference, said, “I salute the students for their tireless commitment and dedication towards their fundraising.

Police in Kainantu“What might have been a priceless experience of a lifetime and an excellent opportunity for interaction, collaboration and networking did not turn out,” said Ms Wanamp.

“We turned back from Henganofi on Monday afternoon due to the tense situation on the highway. Attempts to fly the six student presenters was impossible, too, due to the insufficient funds raised”.

The murder which resulted in the roadblock brings to the fore the many challenges facing our country. We were told that the bus crew took an innocent person’s life during a tussle involving some roadside thugs who ran away with his day’s collection.

These thugs are commonly referred to as ‘K5 boskrus’ (five kina crews) and they have grown in number at the major PMV stops along the Okuk Highway, operating under the nose of urban authorities and police without intervention.

The action of the bus crew is reflective of a community that has no respect for the rule of law and human life. I couldn’t understand how a young person who had many years to contribute to nation building was stabbed to death in full view of the bus driver and passengers.

The police have been overpowered at the roadblock. People at the roadblock know that it would be wrong for police to fire at them; it would only escalate the tension.

The police are still thinking about ways to deal with such issues and, while they determine a response, many individuals and organisations are adversely affected.

While I condemn the murder, the relatives of the deceased and the Barola community have an obligation to ensure the business on the highlands is left undisrupted and pursue a better way of presenting their grievances.

I am hearing that a number of local national members of parliament are intervening. If this is true, the actions of the MPs may be deemed proper in the Melanesian context of politics.

However, such efforts undermine the work of the police and other law enforcement agencies. These agencies had to be exposed to a wide range of issues to build experience and competencies in dealing with them. Frequent intervention by MPs will set a bad precedent.

The university students and staff members who raised money in pursuit of contributing to the government’s goals to create a healthy, smart and wise population were affected. Kainantu High School and other schools along the road are affected. If such trends continue, the next 39 years will be a disaster for PNG.


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John Wilkinson

Many years or more ago I was based in Kainantu (K92). I helped the local villages to get loans and land for coffee blocks and helped plant more than 1,000 hectares of new coffee at places like Tuta and Abiera.

I showed everyone respect and I got respect given back to me. I could go anywhere without threat or harm to me or my Hilux.

Used to drive from K92 to Goroka every week. The Komperi Barola Hill and road down from the Okapa shortcut into Kamano was always a problem.

Sometime you would see a holdup in process. Sometimes I would throw them them some smokes or coins. Kept a firearm in the car but never shot anyone.

The big gang was led by Sanap Tusaka. His father was my painter boy so I could pass messages through him.

One day, the Henganofi kiap and pastor came to me and asked if I could help them. Sanap wanted a truce. I agreed and went with them to Sanap's secret hideout to talk with him.

They had a lot of issues they wanted addressed. The result was we brought Sanap and his gang out to talk with the police and army at the corner in Henganofi where they all surrendered.

Later Sanap was pardoned, but he raped a lady and was shot by police. He bled to death, none of the doctors would help him.

The most important thing I always found in my 40 years in PNG was respect. It does not matter who you talk to, show respect and it will be returned. Even the small man with apparently nothing to give can give respect.

Anyway, that's my story.

A story with a great moral lesson. Thanks John - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

A different tragedy but by Highlands Highway transport businesses.
In 2005, I flew to Goroka only to tick my list of wild places, this one being the "white knuckle" ride to Lae.
Speed, indeed, once was enough.

Bomai D Witne

Kops, the daily K5 PMV bus crews at Kainantu bus stop had an argument with a PMV bus crew for not paying them after the rounds and the K5-crews grabbed the days taking from the crew and escaped. The frustrated crew directed his anger at the teacher who got on the bus from Kainantu and murdered him and dumped the corpse at the Lae hospital morgue.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

Kops, what is the full story? What led to the killing of the teacher?

Barbara Short

I placed this article on the Sepik Forum and Nelson Simbiken commented -

"In the highlands culture they believe in something that holds and binds them as a society. This belief is the fundamental of the problem they cause.

"They are not insane, but by believing in their niche (wantok system), they may be strong in what they do.

"Divided they are weak, so when dealing with conflict resolution no westernised ideas will resolve our societal problems.

"We need a home grown solution based on western ideas of conflict resolution.

"Dr Francis Essacu who just completed his PhD at ANU on this subject understands this better than I do."

Would be interesting to hear what this Dr Essacu has to say about it.

Bernard Yegiora

K5 bus crews are annoying. But this practice is common in all bus stops throughout the Okuk highway. In Madang, some go to the extreme of driving the bus around to pickup passengers while the driver and his crew is resting somewhere.

Jimmy Awagl

PNG is known for such barbaric acts when the government is too corrupt in their status as leaders not with good moral conduct and neglecting their beneficiaries - the people at home.

Law and order issues are the end result of corruption in every aspects of government obligations.

Spread the wealth and benefits to every centre of PNG and not Port Moresby alone to minimise law and order and development problems otherwise more incidents of this nature will occur elsewhere.

Chris Overland

There has been justifiable criticism of some colonial kiaps for their undue readiness to resort to force to bring about the rule of law.

However, the ugly truth is that no human society will function peacefully unless the state is willing and able to use coercion to maintain law and order.

The agents of coercion are the police, often with the support of one or more covert security agencies, as well as things like Independent Commissions against Corruption.

The military is the last resort although, in some countries, it is the first resort.

All of these state instruments of coercion are in place in most countries around the world. When they are conspicuously absent or totally ineffective, then a state will fail. Somalia is a case in point, as is Iraq and, closer to home, the Solomon Islands.

In Bomai Witne's article, he mentions that the police were overpowered and that the offenders knew that they would not shoot for fear of escalating tensions.

In Australia, every year, the police are obliged to shoot and kill people. Such actions, whilst unusual, reflect the fact that police work is inherently dangerous and that some people cannot be stopped except by the use of force.

The case cited by Bomai Witne strongly suggests that PNG's ability to enforce the rule of law is clearly being hampered because criminals know that the police are either unable or unwilling to use lethal force.

It may be time for the PNG government to revisit this issue and reconsider the relative importance it gives to enforcing law and order as opposed to remaining effectively helpless for fear of "escalating tensions".

During the French Revolution, there was virtual anarchy in Paris, where the rule of the mob prevailed. Eventually, after tiring of the incessant riots, robberies and murders, the government asked a junior military officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, to bring order to the streets.

Unconcerned about "escalating tensions", Bonaparte's solution was the famous "whiff of grapeshot", whereby his troops used artillery to clear the streets of rioters. In the order of 200 rioters were killed, with many more injured. It was an ugly but effective way to restore order.

My point is that, in the end, the rule of law rests upon the imposition of order by force. This is the case even in very robust and stable democracies, more so in authoritarian states.

PNG's government needs to bear this in mind when considering how to respond to the extortion and plain highway robbery that seems to be a serious and growing problem.

One thing is certain: failure to act decisively merely encourages the criminals and brings about a resultant decline in public confidence in the rule of law.

As has happened in Somalia and Iraq, a "death spiral" towards anarchy can easily ensue.

Michael Dom

"If such trends continue, the next 39 years will be a disaster for PNG."

Enough said.

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