OUTRAGE OVER AITAPE TIDAL WAVE RAPE REPORTS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 22, 1999 - Post-Courier)---Reports of rape, sadistic behavior, criminal activities and abuse of relief aid in Aitape is raising strong concerns from individuals and those in authority.

Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs Minister Dibara Yagabo said in a statement yesterday that he was concerned about the law and order problems in Aitape.

He said crime appeared to hinder the reconstruction program.

Mr. Yagabo called on police to deal with people who continue to harass and threaten both government and non-government agencies' workers involved in the restoration program.

Mr. Yagabo said this while explaining the findings of a two-day visit to the disaster-affected area and people last week.

Responding directly to reports of rapes of dying women and physical violation of corpses, a prominent Sepik Sir Anthony Siaguru spoke out strongly against people who may have taken advantage of helpless women after the tsunami tragedy last July.

"As a Sepik man and as patron of the National Aitape Disaster Relief and Restoration Committee, I am disgusted that people would resort to such depths of depravity at a time when all normal human beings were moved to acts of compassion and generosity, if the stories coming out are true,'' Sir Anthony said in a statement.''

He also called on authorities to investigate the reports thoroughly and quickly.

"Should they be true, then the people concerned should be given the severest penalty that our laws provide,'' Sir Anthony said.

Sepik woman Dorothy Tekwie called for a commission of inquiry into the allegations of sexual abuse and misuse of disaster funds and supplies.

She said the allegations of rape particularly were horrific and serious, and required an inquiry to establish what had happened.

"It is unacceptable that government officials, aid workers and community leaders have not brought these allegations out earlier,'' Ms Tekwie said.

"I challenge the Prime Minister (Bill Skate) to immediately do something to restore confidence in the handling of Aitape disaster funds and donations to account for these funds.

"I also appeal to the National Council of Women, women leaders and organizations throughout the country to condemn these horrific, sadistic, barbaric and inhuman actions on women left vulnerable by the tsunami, many of them struggling for life and suffering from shock and injuries.''

An aid worker involved in the Aitape restoration program has also supported stories concerning rape.

Dasty Zamunu of the Village Development Trust, who spent three months in Aitape, said reports that dying women were raped and women corpses violated by sadists soon after the disaster are true.

Mr. Zamunu who returned from Aitape yesterday told the Post-Courier's Abby Yadi in Lae that women, especially young girls, complained of being raped and sexually assaulted during rescue and relief operations.

"Some of the girls have complained to me of what happened to them during the disaster,'' Mr. Zamunu said.

"The girls claimed that they were raped when their clothes were ripped off by strong currents and left naked.''

He said all these complaints had been referred to police for investigation.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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