PNG HIGHLANDS ELECTION POSES SECURITY CONCERN

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Voters tense following brutal rally attacks

By Johnny Poiya PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier) - The Kandep by-election has become a major security concern for Wabag police.

The situation has been tense after a couple of deaths, serious injuries and destruction to properties worth hundreds of thousands of kina in relation to the by-election in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, a young man believed to be a supporter of Mr. Polye was shot by supporters of a rival candidate who were armed with high- powered rifles and bush knives near the Kandep station.

In another incident in Mumundu three weeks ago, a 16-year-old youth was shot dead and four boys aged three, six, seven and 12 were wounded with shot guns in a surprise attack on the village by a rival tribe. The tension worsened when a group of supporters of ousted MP Don Polye were attacked in Sakalip outside Wabag on Sunday night, allegedly by supporters of rival politicians and candidates.

In the attack, 11 young men received serious gun and axe wounds to their faces and abdomens while others received serious wounds and were treated at health facilities in Kandep.

The planks and metal sheets on the Pamyuk bridge in Laiagam, the only link into Kandep, is continuously being removed while in Kandep, indications of warfare and bloodshed were rife, acting provincial police commander Albert Beli said.

"The way things are going, I can already predict a spill-over.

"It’s very tense on the ground. If the engagement of foreign troops to provide security for the by-election does not take place very soon, things will explode and there’ll in the whole province," Senior Inspector Beli said.

He said a pre-deployment team should go into the electorate to remove firearms, bush knives, axes and quell any tension before polling which begins in two weeks.

Senior Insp Beli said the delay in the deployment of security personnel was a major concern.

He said the delay created the opportunity for disruptions before, during and post election violence.

"I wrote to the hierarchy raising the concern a couple of weeks ago and we’re still waiting for the deployment," Mr. Beli said. However, he warned that anybody caught trying to disturb the election in any way would be severely dealt with by the law.

He also called on people outside Kandep not to get involved in disturbing the normal election process after the attack on Polye supporters outside Wabag, removal of bridge parts in Laiagam and sporadic clashes among supporters all over Enga Province.

"The election is a Kandep thing. Not all of Wabag is going to the polls. We’ll not take it easy on any individual trying to disturb the people of Kandep from electing a representative into the National Parliament," Beli said.

Meanwhile, Polye called on his supporters not to retaliate or resort to violence.

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