PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 12, 2010) – An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth literally is the notion that for every wrong done there should be a compensating measure of justice.

Its origin is traced back as far as 1750 BC in the days of Hammurabi, who was King of Babylon who is said to have imposed this code.

This code survives today in many places in the world and in Papua New Guinea, the notion of vendetta, retaliation, revenge or payback is practiced. The form and magnitude of the act differs from place to place.

Belea Okoge, a spokesman for the Ambum community from Enga living in Port Moresby told the newspaper that the killing of the student recently in Port Moresby is right and his explanation best demonstrates the existence of this age old practice among people in one part of this country.

[PIR editor’s note: Enga is the majority ethnic group of the Enga Province located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea]

Okoge said his people were provoked into killing young Christopher because his father who was a suspect in a previous killing of another student and his release on bail by the courts had provoked them. They want him to remain behind bars.

Clearly Okoge and his people do not understand how the judicial system here works and they think that the court was wrong to release him.

Where were Okoge and his people when George Kalupai (the suspect in the previous murder) applied for bail in court? They could have objected but apparently they did not. And he was only on bail, when he returns to court and should the court finds him guilty, he will face the consequences.

And how can we explain to this guy. What the father did or did not do, had nothing with his son. A student, he had to pay the price in the most horrendous way.

Okoge and his people assumed that two wrongs make a right. They believed that because they lost a young student in previous murder, it was only fair and right that they should take the life of another student and the son of the main suspect to even matters.

That is never right. Lawyers will tell us that in this case, the previous murder is a totally different crime altogether and that the state was already dealing with it.

The second murder is a totally different crime and the law is dealing with it too. The only thing that is similar is that both crimes are very serious because two young students were killed.

It is frightening that the comments are uttered by a man who is representing a group living in Port Moresby, the nation’s capital.

It is clear that there are people who live in the city that undermine the rule of law, the police and the judiciary. Are they alone in the way they think and act this way?

Law and justice sector practitioners should take note and perhaps design intervention measures to change this mentality and attitude.

And another thing surfaced from that murder. The police and some politicians were quick to tell Okoge and his people to leave their terrible ‘customs or culture" behind in their villages and live in peace as one people with the others in the city.

So what? It is OK for people to kill each other in payback in the villages but not in the city, is that it?

Human lives are priceless. They need to be protected at all cost and in the cities, towns and in the villages.

There should not be anyone going around killing people in payback or for whatever reason.

Something must be done to end these payback killings in our societies.

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