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Death in the jungle & the savage aftermath

Jacob Luke’s death ought to be a good lesson that the struggle for power, and the death and destruction of this year’s national elections, is not worth it if a man can die anytime, anywhere without saying goodbye

Kurai Luke
School mates, brothers-in-law and successful Enga businessmen Paul Kurai (left) and the late Jacob Luke at Kurai’s Ribito Hotel in Wabag recently

| Edited extracts from an article in The NationalWeekender

The death of Jacob Luke

Engan icon Jacob Luke was found dead in the jungle near his new Mukeres mansion at Lakolam village in Wabag, a few kilometres up the Highlands Highway towards Porgera.

Nobody had noticed his disappearance on Wednesday 20 July until a team of Digicel PNG technicians, there to erect a new tower, found his body in the bush the next day.

Luke returned home from a business trip in America with 12 friends and family members on Tuesday 19 July.

The first person, Luke contacted after he had arrived from America was another iconic figure, Councillor Paul Kurai, his long-time family friend, business associate and brother-in-law.

He called Kurai from Lae to tell him that he was back in Papua New Guinea and was preparing to drive to Wabag.

In the afternoon Luke called again, this time from Kurai’s Ribito Hotel in Wabag. He asked Kurai to go to his residence in Lae and pick up his passport which he had forgotten.

The two friends had made arrangements to travel to Manila in the Philippines on Sunday 24 July on another business trip.

Kurai said Luke did not ring him on Wednesday. On Thursday, Kurai rang but there was no answer. He tried several times but still there was no answer.

So Kurai sent a text message explaining he was making his way to Port Moresby with the passport.

The text message remained unanswered, which was uncharacteristic of Jacob Luke.

Then Kurai got a call from Luke’s brother Kapili, who broke the sad news that Jacob had been found dead in the bush by Digicel technicians.

Luke had left his phone and other personal effects in his new V8 wagon at his new mansion at Lakolam giving everybody the impression he was in the house or with neighbours in the vicinity.

Nobody had noticed him put on his gum boots, take a bush knife and set off into the nearby forest.

He always went for a solitary walk when he was at Lakolam. He seemed to enjoy the natural beauty and surrounds of the mountain range breathing in fresh air generated by the pristine jungle.

When thirsty, he would drink from the abundance of fresh water sprouting out of the ground.

But on this sad day, he was found dead lying on the ground face up in a grey sweat shirt with his head covered in a hood. He had his gum boots on and the bush knife lay beside him.

A savage aftermath

Luke’s unexpected death was blamed on sorcery and nine women were rounded up and tortured with hot iron rods. Four died within the hour and five were rescued by police and taken to hospital.

Nobody in Enga knew anything about Jacob’s death or the torture of the nine women until rumours slowly spread and trickles of the sad situation began to appear on social media.

His death and the four women killed and five survivors accused of sorcery became mere statistics in the overall picture of death and destruction in the province.

Provincial Police Commander, acting Superintendent George Kakas said the women were stripped and tortured with hot iron rods.

“Their torturers shoved hot iron rods into their private parts,” he said.

“When we (police) got there, four of them had already died, five survived and we rushed them to the hospital under close police protection.

“They could not even walk when we rescued them,’’ Supt Kakas said, adding that the women would be taken to a safe house after they were treated

Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas said arrests should be made to stop this type of cruelty from continuing.

“The late Luke was a good man who touched many lives across the country,” Ipatas said.

“He did not believe in sorcery nonsense and neither do I. It is disappointing that these women were tortured in his name. Those responsible must be dealt with according to law.”

A condition of warfare

Immediate police action seemed unlikely with the province still engrossed in the general election fiasco.

Engans were deeply engrossed in the chaos of the national elections.

They lived in fear, worried for their own lives in the worst election-related violence experienced in the province.

The people were caught in a vice-like grip of terror, despair and suffering as cold-blooded killings and wholesale destruction to property worth millions of kina occurred in almost all parts of the province.

The mining township of Porgera was turned into a killing field where 30 people were killed within minutes, one girl abducted, raped and believed killed, her body dumped in an unknown location.

The Jacob Luke I knew

Kumbon w Luke
Daniel Kumbon and Jacob Luke

Jacob Luke was a simple man who did not act like the multi-millionaire who owned Mapai Transport with over 200 semi-trailers.

He was one of a few Engan businessmen beginning to come back to the province to settle among their own village people.

He came home and built a million kina mansion at Lakolam among his Tit clansmen of the major Sakalin tribe.

He discouraged people from involving in tribal warfare killing each other unnecessarily.

He built the Lakolam to Monokam road using his own funds, hoping that his people would learn to live in peace among themselves and with their neighbours.

There is so much he has done for his Sakalin people, Enga and PNG which would fill the pages of many books.

Jacob Luke had been blessed in the last 72 years he has lived on this earth.

He commenced operations of his Mapai Transport company in 1985 with a single vehicle. Now, there are depots in Lae, Mt Hagen and Goroka running a fleet of 70 prime movers and 200 trailers, 20-tonne delivery trucks and nearly 700 containers.

His loss will be greatly felt for a long time by his large family, friends and relatives, the Sakalin tribe, the people of Enga and countless other people whose hearts he touched.

Remember, Jacob Luke’s death ought to be a good lesson that the struggle for power – death and destruction as evident in this year’s national elections, is not worth it if a man can die anytime, anywhere without saying goodbye.

Jacob Luke was indeed a selfless, humble and peace-loving man, a true role model.


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William Dunlop

Jacob Luke was a genuinely selfless, generous model of a real Bigman. Not the jumped-up gamanman political mauswara versions prattling on in today's Papua New Guinea.

Vale Jacob Luke.

William Dunlop, former STC Transport Manager, 1973-76.

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