LATELY there has been a lot in the media about the rape incident involving two foreign tourists on the Kokoda Track.
This unfortunate incident, if it is authentic, deserves wide condemnation from the community in Papua New Guinea and abroad.
Reaction to this story was swift as we read with utter disgust the humiliating description of the victim’s account and how one British newspaper, The Sun, went to the extreme of describing this as the work of cannibals.
In reaction to these biased stories, the social media was littered with frustration and a good number of Papua New Guineans questioned the facts behind the incident.
After a week of horrendous international media bashing, I was relieved to note that the alleged culprits were captured and flown to Port Moresby to face possible criminal charges.
But, in addition, new light was being shed on the story.
Last Monday, the police revealed that the two trekkers, Matthew Lovane and Michelle Clemens, had ignored the roles and regulations of the Kokoda Track Authority. The two trekkers lied about their application and trekked the Track even though they were strongly advised that they lacked the necessary support and equipment.
Increasingly, evidence is appearing that seems to show they also lied about what had happened on the Track. It is beginning to look like it was all a publicity stunt.
If this is true, PNG’s image has been seriously maligned.
Prior to this episode, another story that drew wide condemnation was the case involving the brutal rape of four PNG Women from Southern Highlands Province by 20 plus men, mostly from Enga, at Morata Settlement in Port Moresby on 1 January.
The story is heart-wrenching, with accounts of the victims being tortured, abused and raped by men armed with bush knifes and other sharp objects. Fearing for their lives, the mothers and kids broke through the window of the house and fled in all directions.
This incident took place a week or so prior to the Kokoda Track affair. The victims are still awaiting the arrest of the men who took part in the rape. The families are worried that justice may fall short of bringing the culprits, who can only be described as senseless and animalistic, to face the full force of the law.
This is where the government of Papua New Guinea needs to get fair dinkum when addressing rape issues like the Morata case that affects the lives of its people.
While the churches (such as Catholic Bishops Conference) and civil society groups (like PNG Council of Women) have come out strongly urging the government to act, so far it seems very little is being done to address the Morata incident.
The police should ensure that justice is done and that all the culprits are brought to account for their senseless and shameless act that deserves the harshest punishment.
The bottom line is that while we polish the image of the country for the sake of maintaining the ‘tourism dollar’, we don't want differing views to prevail about how we treat our own people and foreigners.
Both incidents affected PNG morally, socially and economically and deserve equal attention and justice.