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Once a place of wonder, now a level of anarchy prevails


AT the moment, it seems that a certain level of anarchy prevails in Hela Province.

I spent an all too short time as a kiap at Koroba in 1971 and was able to see Hela society in pretty much its traditional form. What a wonderful place it was for a young kiap.

The administration had imposed the rule of law (sometimes by force majeure) and the previous endemic level of tribal fighting had subsided to the odd sporadic outbreak.

When it came to fighting, the use of arrows (some dipped in dog faeces) and the Koroba Pick resulted in some nasty wounds for a small number but, generally speaking, things were pretty peaceful.

As tradition demanded, the warriors were still able to carry their weapons when outside of the precincts of Koroba station, but had to leave them at home for things like market day or other events where crowds gathered.

Everyone knew that this system was aimed at preserving the peace and compliance was virtually total.

Now, with modern warriors armed with M16s and no longer respecting the traditional rules of combat, I wonder how long it will be before some enterprising warrior leader realises that it may be possible to actually displace the government's tenuous grip and assume effective control over parts of the province by a combination of force and carefully cultivating the population?

This is not unprecedented in PNG: just think about Bougainville, a topic upon which Leonard Fong Roka has been exceedingly eloquent.

To use an historic analogy, in medieval Europe, allowing anarchy to go unchecked in any part of a Kingdom or Duchy or Barony was inviting disaster. An emboldened warrior would soon come to see himself as the next logical choice as King or Duke or Baron.

In Europe, only the crushing of this sort of behaviour and the emergence of powerful nation states ensured the eventual imposition of the rule of law and allowed nations to prosper, mostly in peace.

We seem to now have a situation developing across the world where the incipient ethnic and sectarian tensions long buried within many nation states are now reasserting themselves. Think of the Scottish, Catalonian and Ukrainian separatist movements in Europe, as well as recent events in Africa and the Middle East.

It is no longer inconceivable (to me at least) that, as a result of the apparent neglect of its provinces, the PNG government could find itself confronted by one or more well-armed and well led separatist movements, bent on securing their share of the national wealth, if necessary by force.

There is also the potential for covert funding, training and arms supply for an incipient separatist movement by interested foreign parties, for whom exclusive and guaranteed future access to resources or development opportunities might be an attractive inducement.

This is no flight of fancy on my part: there have been many examples of this across the world.

Hopefully, I will be proved wrong but by neglecting to deal comprehensively with tribal fighting where ever it occurs, the PNG government is creating fertile ground for exactly the scenario I have described.


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