RAPES SHUT PAPUA NEW GUINEA HEALTH CENTERS

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By Peter Korugl

LAE, Papua New Guinea (April 22, 1999 - The National)---The Bulolo and Wau health centers in Morobe Province have been shut down following the pack rape of three women -- one of them a senior health official -- in separate incidents last Friday.

Health authorities in Bulolo and Wau shut down the two health centers on the same day in protest over the gang rape of the women The action has brought to a standstill all medical services in the two districts.

"I have received the report on the closure of the Wau Health Center. I did not know that Bulolo had been shut down as well . . . this is news to me," the Assistant Secretary for Health in Morobe, Dr. Leki Tio, said yesterday when contacted by The National.

The Bulolo District Office and police confirmed the closure of the health centers.

Police said the gang rape of the wife of a senior health official and a relative, who was in the house that night, forced the authorities to shut down the Bulolo Health Centre while the gang rape of a female senior health official the same night forced the closure of the Wau Health Centre.

Police said in the Wau case, a drunken mob went to the house of the female officer, smashed the door down and raped her in front of her family.

"The men had been drinking and while under the influence of liquor, they went to her house and tried to call her out. When she refused to come out, they smashed the door of her home and went in.

"The incident has shattered the woman. She now wants to move out of Wau and go to another area where it is safer," a police source at Wau said, adding that the woman was a Morobean.

Police said a manhunt was launched soon after the incident was reported and on the weekend, three suspects were arrested and charged with rape. The hunt for the rest of the men is still on.

In the case of the Bulolo incident, three armed men entered the house of another senior health official and walked right into the bedroom where the wife and the young relative were sleeping and raped them at gun point.

"They could not shout for help for fear of their lives. The husband, who was sleeping in the living room, was not aware of anything and learnt of the incident in the morning," another police source at Bulolo said.

"The family has left for Lae and this is making our investigation difficult. We have no leads into who was responsible, but we are investigating," the source said, adding that the community in Bulolo has held a meeting to discuss ways to help the police arrest those responsible.

The health centers provide health care to the entire population of the two districts and the closure has forced patients to travel all the way to Lae for treatment over the last six days.

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

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