By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 13) - Widespread lawlessness in Enga province and the use of high-powered weapons in tribal warfare resulting in a high number of deaths has been blamed on leaders.

Enga Governor Peter Ipatas said leaders in the province were buying and arming their clansmen with sophisticated weapons and sending them to war for fame and personal gain.

Governor Ipatas made this bold statement in Wabag during the Enga Law and Order Summit last week.

The Governor's finger-pointing at the elite group comes as figures, released by a non-government group which orchestrated the summit, revealed startling figures about deaths, destruction to service facilities and educational institutions, and loss of businesses in the province in the last 12 months as a result of law and order problems.

Speaking during the summit, Mr Ipatas said leaders were to be blamed for instigating tribal warfare and armed confrontations of magnitude never seen before in the province for political and other reasons.

Mr Ipatas said the kind of tribal wars being currently waged currently were totally different from the ones fought in the old days, and that was because leaders were purchasing high-powered firearms and ammunitions to attack rival tribes for their own greed and fame.

He said the leaders engaged in these illegal activities include businessmen, politicians, public servants, and professional people. He said it was up to police to properly investigate and prosecute these people to help bring lawlessness under control in the province.

Some of the major incidents of crime prompting the call for the summit include widespread use of guns in violence during the elections, the destruction of ballot papers at the Wabag Police Station, the burning of the Amapyaka International School, the killing of a businessman in Wabag, and roadblocks leading to partial shutdown of the giant Porgera gold mine last year.

In a report presented at the summit by Enga Masemana, a foundation for justice, peace and development group, it has been established that between August 2002 and August 2003, 501 lives have been lost due to armed conflict.

In addition, 12 health centres and 16 educational establishments have been destroyed, more than 6000 students are without education, while five major business houses have withdrawn from the province.

The group reported that 23 small businesses have been affected, 24 church buildings and properties lost, and 10 roads in the province closed.

Enga Masemana ("hausman" in Enga) chairman Pastor Yalato Pauli said the main objectives of the group was to help seek ways to address these problems, which he describes as a "cancer" eating into the Enga society.

Pastor Pauli said the summit was a start in its hope to revive the province for the future, and was pleased that the group has the support of the Enga provincial government, the judiciary and police, and churches.

The summit was opened last Thursday with a march for peace by thousands of men, women and children through Wabag town with "stopim bia" (stop beer) and "yanda da" (stop fighting) placards and chants for peace to prevail.

October 13, 2003

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