PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 6, 2010) – In Papua New Guinea, four people are dead. They were brutally tortured and while they were crying out in agony, their tormentors tied their legs and hands, then threw them into the fast flowing Waghi River.

Their bodies have not been recovered. Two of those killed were an elderly married couple, hardly strong enough to defend themselves against the attack.

The deceased were accused of using sorcery to kill a village chief. This happened on September 4 in Wangoi, Chuave in the Chimbu Province.

This is not the first time that the Police have reported this barbaric behavior of our people. Over the years we have read about people, usually the elderly and the defenseless, which fall victim to people who do not seem to have any respect for human life.

And these attacks and killings are spreading throughout the country that is it becoming a big concern for human rights organizations in the world.

The tortures and killings of sorcery suspects are just a part of the problem in this issue. What is not often made public is the damage done to the reputation and standing of the family members of those accused of being sorcerers.

Children of sorcery suspects live in fear all their lives because those who believe in this age old witchcraft business think that the sorcerers pass on the ‘powers’ to their children.

In the case of girls, it can be very frightening. A girl who comes from a family with such a damaged reputation stands to face the same fate, like that of her parents, later in life. For her, education is the key to her survival, for when she is educated, has a job and is earning money, her community values her more and that acts as her shield.

For the poor villager, her days are numbered. She could be the next victim when someone dies.

These attacks and killings, will continue to be part of the larger problem of violence against women and girls that is pervasive and rarely punished in this country.

How long do we have to wait for the government to bring an end to such attacks and killings of innocent people? It is apparent that the Sorcery Act, if there is one in place, has no teeth.

When a lot of innocent people are killed after what are literally witch hunts, it is clear that the government is not doing enough to protect its own citizens and maintain the rule of law.

The police and the judicial authorities have to step in immediately before more people continue to face this kind of vigilante violence.

Public awareness to address misconceptions that HIV/AIDS and the other diseases are linked to sorcery also needs to be addressed by all concerned with this problem.

The public health system in the country has the capacity to deal with all kinds of medical problems and those suffering from any ailment should be taken to the hospitals, health centers and aid posts for treatment.

The tough economic times we are living in also contributes to the spread in the sorcery attacks and killings. People nowadays spend much of the time worrying about their own problems that they neglect the sick and elderly, who are left to fend for themselves at most times.

Combined with this is the cost of medical treatment at hospitals, making it harder for villagers to afford, that the sick are left in the villages to die.

Often in these cases, sorcery is blamed by relatives of the deceased, to hide their shortcomings from the community.

Sorcery killings is a human rights issue and the we must act now to end this rash of killings, related to allegations of sorcery.

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