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Land disputes trigger violence in Enga Province

By Johnny Poiya PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 4, 2011) – Two separate tribal fights in Laiagam, Enga Province, have claimed the lives of more than 30 people.

Sparked by land issues, the fights erupted near the Laiagam station and Pilikambi High School where combatants are engaged in guerrilla type tactics using high powered weapons which include grenades.

In the latest ambush, two men and their wives were walking along the road when their enemies shot them dead, Provincial Police Commander Martin Lakari said.

In the Pilikambi fight, two women and five men were killed in June while the number of deaths in the fight between the two factions from the Pyain tribe near Laiagam station is believed to be more than 20 as the hit and run battles occur in the jungles and banks of the Lagaip River.

Nine people were killed by the end of May after the fight erupted in mid April.

Village court officials, police and local MP Philip Kikala issued a preventative order to the warring groups with a strong warning that leaders from any of the faction that fired a shot again after an attempt peace mediation late in May would be arrested.

The preventative order seems to have drowned in the Lagaip River while the hostility continues.

Many received injuries and were maimed for life, mostly through the use high powered rifles and hand grenades, properties worth millions of kina were destroyed while women, children and the elderly were displaced since the fight erupted following a National Court ruling over a piece of State owned land.

The fighting in the area has unleashed an upsurge in roadblocks and holdups along the Laiagam-Kandep road. On the weekend alone, six PMV trucks heading back from Wabag were held up at gunpoint and the passengers from Kandep had all their valuables robbed.

A local said the number of deaths in the fighting could be high because deaths were never reported to authorities or nearby tribes because of moral and security issues by all warring factions.

The local who requested anonymity said: "People are gunned down in the area like animals.

"We hear a lot of gunshots in the jungles but the numbers of deaths are never made known.

"Definitely it’s more than what is being known outside."

Enga police are stationed at the newly established West Enga technical high school protecting government installations.

Mr Lakari yesterday said a police unit was also monitoring the situation at Pilikambi.

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