By our values, the portions are not equal
Beyond the Corridor

Out of the terror & death, it’s time for peace

Every day there was gunfire in Enga Province. Constant reports of death and destruction poured in from almost every district. Property valued at millions of kina went up in smoke - shops, homes, schools, health facilities

Kumbon top


PORT MORESBY - I had terrible dreams, some so scary they made me sweat, in the last couple of weeks I was up there in Wabag.

Maybe my poor brain recorded so much destruction, crime, violence, atrocities and human rights violations that the events kept resurfacing in my sleep.

My family and thousands of other peace-loving Enga folk lived through hell during the worst general election Papua New Guinea has ever experienced.

The terrible events caused a terror that can still be felt as a subsiding tremor.

I had to ask 10 relatives to come to Wabag to provide some form of security so I could feel a little safe.

The police would normally turn up only after a crime had been committed - or they never came at all. There were just not enough of them. And they were poorly resourced.

And all the people know how police morale sank to the bottom of the Lai River a long time ago.

Perpetrators know they can take advantage of the once proud Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Yet some police still seem ready and able to provide security for members of parliament or unscrupulous Chinese businessmen.

Every day from the day nominations opened there was gunfire in Enga Province.

Constant reports of death and destruction poured in from almost every district.

Property valued at millions of kina went up in smoke - shops, homes, schools, health facilities.

International TV networks like Aljazeera reported on the thoughtless bush knife-wielding tribesmen causing mayhem and inflicting gross human rights violations throughout the province.

Then there were the local TV news channels, newspapers and social media screaming with negative stories each day as the election-related death toll climbed towards 100 of our people.

Why should 100 people die for close to the same number of seats for somebody to occupy in parliament for just five years?

Some death and destruction was caused by sitting MPs, some by new aspiring candidates and some others by supporters without the knowledge or approval of the poor candidate they were trying to elevate as a national leader.

Where was Papua New Guinea headed, I kept thinking.

Last Friday night, I had one of those nightmares in which I found myself attending the funeral of one of my relatives.

The next day I received the devastating news from home that one of my brothers-in-law had been killed in an election-related tribal war in the Lower Wage area of Kandep.

Why he had gone there to die, I am not sure because he is from the Mariant area where many candidates had nominated. He must have cast his vote for one of them in the race for the Kandep open seat.

Two of his brothers were at my house in Wabag and they had to go home for the funeral. I had to restrain them from going to the tribal war zone seeking revenge.

I pointed out their own lives were special. And they must not throw them away unnecessarily.

Their brother was gone for good, never to come back to help them.

But I’m not sure they will remember my words. Today’s youth are different.

Two of the worst non-election related acts of violence in Enga were an event in which up to 30 people were killed and then the abduction of a girl believed raped and killed in an ongoing tribal feud in the mining township of Porgera.

Maybe the warring tribesman on both sides should lay down their arms, get down on their knees, start to negotiate peace, pay compensation for all the death and destruction, come to their senses and realise they cannot allow innocent women and children to suffer like this, and so often.

The two sides must realise they have a new member in parliament now in Maso Karipe, a man to whom they can take their grievances and in whose term they can try to live in peace.

The Porgera gold mine will reopen soon and everybody should look forward to that occasion.

Jacob Luke

The other non-election related violence followed immediately after Engan trucking tycoon, Jacob Luke, was found dead in the jungle a day after his disappearance.

His body would not have been found then had it not been for Digicel PNG technicians who used GPS tracking devices to pinpoint the exact location from where he had made his last phone call 24 hours earlier.

They had taken a photo of the location in the jungle, quite a distance from his new Mukeres home.

The relatives enlarged the photograph to pinpoint where Jacob’s body was.

He had died sitting upright dressed in a grey sweatshirt with a hood. He had his gum boots on. One of his mobile phones and his bush knife lay beside him.

He hadn’t struggled. No suffering, no surprise, no regret, no fear or terror on his face.

Jacob’s second brother, Kayto Lesan Luke, said his expression was one of peace and calm.

Kumbon - Jacob LukeJacob was humble and kind. He was slow to anger. He lived a normal life and did not act like the multi-millionaire who owned Mapai Transport.

I could not imagine anybody who was physically fit, healthy and of sound mind to just walk into the bush alone to be found dead the next day.

Maybe Jacob somehow knew this was coming.

The saddest part came when nine women were accused of causing his death through witchcraft.

They were rounded up and tortured in the most vicious way resulting in the death of four. Five survived with dreadful injuries.

Houses and property belonging to Jacob’s neighbours at Lakolam were burnt by fellow tribesman who accused the neighbours of not looking after Jacob properly after he chose to go live amongst them near the Highlands highway.

They should have provided security for Jacob. Or one of them should have accompanied him into the bush.

Jacob Luke was such a big man, hard to replace.

But he always took solitary walks and seemed to enjoy the natural surroundings when he relocated to Lakolam from Monokam, his other village.

He didn’t need security. He even liked to drive by himself from Lae to Enga and back.

The last thing he would have wanted was his relatives to torture innocent women.

Kumbon - On the back of the t shirt worn by the man one of the 12 relatives who went with Jacob Luke on a trip to America recently
The back of a tee-shirt worn by one of the 12 relatives who went with Jacob Luke on a sightseeing trip to America just before he died

He was a strong Christian, one of the main foundations of the Gutnius Lutheran Church in Enga.

Just recently, he had put smiles on the faces of 12 of his relatives by taking them on their first ever overseas trip to America.

That was just before he came back home and died alone in the bush a day after arriving back at Lakolam.

Jacob loved everybody and liked to make people happy by giving freely.

His company motto is ‘Spirit to Serve’ and that’s what he liked to do – to serve freely and give freely no matter the cost.

Who in Papua New Guinea has given away a brand new Mack highway truck worth a million kina?

Well Jacob Luke gave away not one but 10 of them. He made big money through hard work and liked to give big to people who worked hard.

He gave the brand new Macks to 10 senior drivers as their reward for working hard to make Mapai Transport a multi-million-kina enterprise.

People knew the kind of person Jacob Luke was but still they tortured nine women and tarnished his good name by undermining his Christian principles.

It will take a while to mend the wounds, to forgive each other and to admit that they were wrong.

Eventually this will erase the nightmares in the minds of everybody at Lakolam as people continue with the work Jacob started.

I had another dream last Saturday during an afternoon nap. I dreamt I was trying to shoot two kingfishers using a slingshot. They were feeding and one came towards me.

I aimed to shoot it but the bird was too close. I could have reached out and caught it.

But the instant I put out my hand, the bird transformed into a handsome young boy. He looked like an African child and he was with an elder, maybe his father or uncle.

The young boy looked up at me and smiled. That instant I woke up.

I don’t know what this means. But I can guess two scenarios. Maybe somebody will offer me a baby boy to adopt.

Or maybe Enga Province and PNG will discard all that is weighing them down - corruption, crime, tribal warfare, poor governance, mismanagement and sorcery-accusation-related violence and learn to change.

And regenerate to become a peaceful nation filled with happy smiling people just like the smiling African boy in my dream.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michael Dom

Thanks for this piece Daniel, it offers some more perspective on the related agenda of all this ongoing violence.

Chris Overland

One of the unfathomable mysteries of human nature is the instinct to pursue violence and war.

History is, in many respects, just one long and dismal story of seemingly endless warfare.

The motivations for this have ranged from the lust to acquire more power, lands and property through to the desire to impose a particular religion or ideology upon others.

A necessary part of this process is the demonisation of the opponent, much as Hitler characterised the Slavic and Jewish peoples as sub-human.

It is thus deeply ironic that some Russian apologists for Putin's war in Ukraine have described Ukrainians in very much the same terms.

The war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine are inspired by this type of pernicious rhetoric.

The same type of thinking motivates Papua New Guinean 'warriors' to victimise and murder innocent women for a death that they cannot explain except in terms of their own irrational superstitions.

So much for the influence of the Christian faith in PNG (or anywhere else for that matter).

I very much doubt that peace will be coming to Enga Province any time soon. A critical precondition for peace is that people must desire it fiercely enough to argue, fight and even die for it.

This is what Ukrainians are doing now and, very probably, what we all may be doing soon enough if, as is widely believed, China means to use force to conquer Taiwan and the USA intervenes.

While supposedly intelligent creatures, we humans all too often fall victim to our very worst impulses even while knowing that the end result is unlikely to be good or may even be disastrous for us.

Cling onto your dreams, Daniel, while you may, but history strongly suggests that your nightmares will more likely be fulfilled.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)