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Time to declare state of emergency in Enga says businessman

Cr Paul Kurai with two elderly local womenDANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Businessman and councillor Paul Kurai has appealed to the O’Neill-Abel government to immediately declare a state of emergency in the troubled highlands province of Enga to prevent a politically motivated tribal war from spreading to other towns and villages.

The Wabag businessman (centre right) said the state of emergency must continue as long as necessary to bring hope and normalcy to the people.

Cr Kurai warned that if leaders Don Polye, Alfred Manasseh and Governor Peter Ipatas do not intervene to urge their people to stop fighting many more people will die and more property will be destroyed.

“They must not wait for the fight to stop on its own,” he said. “This is the wrong attitude.

“Enga will not be the same. Our government and elected leaders must act urgently. They must avoid the future ramifications of this political power struggle.”

Cr Kurai owns the road and building construction company, the Ribito Motel and a hire car service. He said he has already been forced to lay off many of his workers.

He has asked Don Polye and Alfred Manasseh to tell their people to stop fighting and has worked with the Catholic Church but warfare has continued very close to town.

“I am now waiting at the Crown Plaza Hotel [in Port Moresby] to see Governor Peter Ipatas to find ways to resolve this ongoing power struggle,” he said Friday morning.

“If we don’t act now, there will be more bloodshed everywhere in the province.”

Cr Kurai’s plea comes with the knowledge that five of the six Enga members of parliament sit on the government benches, all in senior portfolios.

They include Governor Ipatas, Rimbink Pato (Foreign Affairs), John Pundari (Environment), Alfred Manasseh (Civil Aviation) and Tomait Kapili (vice minister). Only Wabag MP, Dr Lino Tom, joined the opposition.

People expect the leaders to come up with a solution to stop the fighting which threatens the existence of Wabag, the provincial capital.

So far more than 30 people have been killed and property worth many millions of kina has been destroyed in the month-long fight, which was still raging yesterday.

Cr Kurai said the continued fighting indicated that the national government was insensitive to the situation.

“Businesses cannot afford to come to a standstill for two months,” he said. “Violence must not force businesses to close. The government must act urgently.”

The PNG Electoral Commission has been blamed for the violence which flared up after vote rigging, common roll discrepancies and double declarations contributed to failing to deliver a successful election.

Nenk Pasul when a member of parliament in 1975People are asking why it wasn’t possible for the many police and army personnel in the area to contain the conflict happening right on the edge of Wabag.

The words of the first member of parliament for the Enga electorate of Kandep appear to have been prophetic.

When people complained to the late Nenk Pasul MBE (left) why the government did not introduce tougher laws to contain sporadic tribal warfare, he said: “People will fight their tribal wars, settle their differences and live in peace again.

“But educated people, when they fight, their fight will be more destructive, not before seen by our ancestors.

"This place will be gone.”


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`Daniel Kumbon

Another man killed today in a gun battle in the early morning.

Daniel Kumbon

On the front cover of one of my books 'Remember Me' are two photographs taken in the early 1960s.

The top one is that of a census conducted in Civil Aviation Minister Alfred Manasseh's village at Supi. His uncle the late Levi who was an interpreter (tanim tok) appears in another photo taken on the same day.

The bottom picture on the cover shows Mr Yamala from Don Polye's Kambrip tribe, Kambia Kas from Hon Alfred Manasseh's Kupdrop tribe and Nenk Pasul of the Aimbarep tribe – the three major tribes that make up Mariant constituency in Kandep.

They worked hard to support the kiaps to bring peace to Kandep during the colonial administration period but look what’s happening to the district now.

Their efforts appear to be wasted.

The people of Kandep are gentle and peace-loving people but deep politics seem to have spoilt their mindsets.

I interviewed Nenk Pasul 33 years ago for a story in Enga Nius, published in the April 1984 issue.

I hope to republish this traditional leader’s story for the benefit of PNG Attitude readers soon.

Thanks Daniel, we look forward to it - KJ

Salome Catherine Rihatta | Facebook

The SOE should have been declared two months ago. I'm puzzled as to why the government keeps on pretending it's all OK in the paddock?

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