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By Philiip Dowa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 5) – A Papua New Guinea highlands man was chased into a courthouse in Vanimo and bashed to death in front of policemen, who did nothing to intervene last week.

The young man, believed to be from the Enga province, died after being severely beaten last Thursday by villagers from Lido village.

[PIR editor’s note: Vanimo is the capital of Sandaun Province, near the Irian Jaya border in northwest PNG.]

Businessman Max Friel said the killing has brought the West Sepik township to a halt, with businesses fearing violence could escalate.

According to Mr Friel, the villagers chased the young man from Vanimo Supermarket to the market and after realising that he was outnumbered, he sought refuge inside the court house.

"They entered the court house and punched and kick the man, and then someone went on beating him with a plank," Friel said. "He was beaten to death in front of three policemen who were in civilian clothes."

Friel said some PNG soldiers normally stationed at the border who were in town at the time, intervened to stop the bashing but by then, it was too late.

The young man was pronounced dead on arrival at the Vanimo General Hospital.

Mr Friel said the killing stemmed from an argument between the Lido villagers and the sister of the dead man. He said the women had gone to the village and picked an argument with the villagers after suspecting them of allowing a girl from the village to have an affair with her husband, who is a senior public servant in Vanimo.

The villagers attacked her brother when they saw him in town on Thursday, Mr Friel said.

He said an already tense situation was made worse by the fact that armed villagers were patrolling the town freely without authorities seemingly reluctant to do anything to stop them.

"This is not the first time Lido villagers have harassed other Papua New Guineans living and working in town," Mr Friel said.

He said Highlanders and people from other provinces living and working in Vanimo have petitioned the provincial authorities and the police to investigate this matter.

The petition also called for the termination or transfer of policemen in Vanimo whom he alleged have become very friendly with the Lido villagers.

He said the town is gripped with fear because the Lido villagers have been seen freely walking around town with high-powered arms while the police are not doing anything to protect the lives of others.

He said public servants have not gone to work since the incident because they are fearful of the villagers.

Vanimo General Hospital officials confirmed that the body of the young man was now at the morgue, and relatives are making arrangements to send the body home to the Enga province for burial.

A police source from Vanimo confirmed the incident but refused to elaborate, saying only the provincial police chief Joe Poema was authorised to release information to the public.

September 6, 2005

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