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Power elites behind brutal Highlands slayings must be targeted

The cocooned remains of the women and children who were victims of the Hela massacre - beyond the foot soldiers are the elites


PORT MORESBY – Sixteen children and women slashed to death by warlords and their tribesmen were laid to rest in Hela yesterday.

And towards the eastern edge of Southern Highlands in the Kagua-Erave area, a massacre said to be much larger continues unabated, perhaps 50-100 victims have lost their lives as warring tribes ransack villages and orchestrate guerilla warfare.

With limited reliable reporting, the number of deaths is likely to be much higher. Roads have become dangerous to travel and as a result schools, aid posts and other basic government services have come to a standstill.

With the use of high powered guns and hired hit men, tribal fights are much more deadly than those fought in traditional times.

In the Highlands where the payback system and bigman mentality are still dominant, battles among the elites for power quickly spiral into all-out tribal and ethnic war.

It gets complicated when political differences and tribal conflicts intertwine. Lurking behind the images of men with guns and piles of bodies is a battle among the elites for power, prestige and wealth.

Money and drugs are used to procure high powered guns for the foot soldiers who follow orders from the top.

It’s continuing warfare, there’s no sparing the innocent and there’s no contemplation of peace. As aptly described by one observer, the situation in Hela and other parts of the Highlands is not just chaos, it’s organised chaos.

The killing of women and children is an emerging trend in tribal warfare and may reflect a change in the rules of engagement.

It seems warring tribes are after children, especially male children and their mothers, in the hope of exterminating future threats. However, we all know that will only lead to a vicious cycle of revenge, death and continuing violence in the future.

Churches, community leaders, ward councillors, village court magistrates, tribal leaders and police all have an important role to play in ensuring that peace prevails.

However, when these interventions are not present or too weak, tribal conflicts quickly get out of control and become difficult to stop.

In the Highlands, often isolated and beyond government control, tribal conflicts occur frequently. Sending in the police or army will not address the root causes. Nor will just going after the foot soldiers.

The organising elite must be held accountable. They are the ones bankrolling these battles and killings. They are responsible and they must act to stop the slaughter.


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Paul Oates

I'm afraid Daniel, there's two hopes of those responsible just owning up and those hopes are the proverbial 'Buckley's and none'.

This is not an individual criminal act, made in hot blood and then regretted. This is civil war at its most vicious and barbaric.

With all the best of intentions, no notion of appeasement will ever stop this type of activity from happening. The only way to prevent this happening again is to take direct and immediate action to catch the perpetrators and bring them swiftly to justice. All else is futile.

The longer it takes to investigate and react to this obscenity, the greater the chance the perpetrators will escape justice. Lack of a clear and decisive response will only encourage a similar atrocity.

Justice differed is justice denied. The response however must be according to law and not just a general, indecisive action.

Daniel Kumbon

I posted this piece on Facebook with images of the International Space Station and one photo of bodies lined up on a road – the aftermath of the massacre in Tari……

While there is barbaric killing in the Highlands of PNG, the world is marching on.

Astronauts, both men and women, and even tourists, who’ve been on the International Space Station orbiting above the earth know that the planet earth is a tiny speck of dust in the universe.

And places like Enga and Tari are nothing.

Astronauts would rather see much prettier sights of the heavens from the windows of the space station than cold blooded killings on a TV screen.

Education is key to changing the mindsets of people.

People need to be told again and again that life is priceless.

We live only once.

The 50 years, 60 years, 70 years we are destined to live on this earth is nothing.

We ought to enjoy our life on earth in peace and harmony.

I hated to see Facebook images of 22 people murdered in Tari buried in a mass grave which included children and pregnant women.

My heart hurts the people have not respected Prime Minister James Marape, their own son who has just been elected to the top post.

I urge the perpetrators to own up and surrender to authorities.

They should at least show remorse for their callous actions.

Kenny Pawa Ambaisi

Very sad story

Philip Fitzpatrick

I suspect that you are right Busa.

This is not just the old payback system at work. It sounds more like an orchestrated thing.

The world's media have jumped on the story as usual and are reinforcing the PNG story as a violent and lawless place, thus damaging the nation's reputation.

I doubt whether this bothers the warlords responsible. In fact, the worse the reputation for violence the more power they acquire.

As you say, they are the people the government should be going after.

Paul Oates

Yes Busa, these trouble might start from the top but it permeates down the food (read power), chain to those who see a way of gaining recognition.

This is an example of human behaviour and is nothing new. It's not just a problem for PNG and it exists wherever law and order have broken down or were never really institutionalized. It can also exist when the elements of law and order are corrupted and used as an organ of the state.

We know the problem so what's the answer?

The answer lies with everyone. Either everyone is prepared to contribute to the solution or they start blaming others and think that's the answer to solve the problems of the world.

If new and effective PNG leadership now offers solutions to this ongoing issue, it remains to be seen if enough of the PNG people support them and help implement those offered solutions.

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