Deaths Allegedly Attributed To PNG Elections Violence Increasing

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Police report 18 deaths during pre-election period in Highlands

By Johnny Poiya

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 14, 2012) – The death toll in the Highlands from election-related violence is rising and, according to the police, all deaths involve the use of guns.

In the latest shooting incident, a teacher went berserk in an argument with his wife and brother over his favorite candidate.

According to Parapia Ramane, a villager from Kagua-Erave electorate, the suspect, opened fire in public and shot two men on Tuesday afternoon.

He said though the shooting may seem accidental, both the victims were supporters of another candidate whom the suspect had publicly opposed.

The latest deaths bring to 19 the total number of people killed over the last three weeks over election-related issues in the Highlands.

The number of deaths, injuries and destruction to property is expected to increase as the seven mountain provinces go to the polls after June 23.

Though police reports disclose 18 deaths officially, our Mt. Hagen office has received unconfirmed reports of further atrocities by candidates, current MPs and their supporters in remote parts of the region.

Eastern Highlands has seen the worst killing in the pre-polling period so far with the killing of 10 people in the Lufa District last week. Another, two people were killed in each of the Chimbu, Jiwaka, Southern Highlands and Enga provinces.

In Chimbu Province, two men were shot dead in separate incidents in the Kerowagi and Chuave districts last week. Both men were reportedly returning from political gatherings when ambushed and murdered.

[PIR editor’s note: The National reports that at least one man was shot dead by police in the Southern Highlands at a political rally, and two others were shot in the Kagua district on Tuesday. The first man was described as acting "intoxicated" and allegedly threatened rally-goers with a bush knife. The other two men reportedly died from wounds suffered during a drive-by shooting; the vehicle involved was allegedly transporting a candidate for the Kagua seat.]

In the Lufa killings, 10 people from two warring factions were killed following conflicts instigated by candidates in the area. The Kuruka Nega and Hira tribes are tribal enemies and their hostilities came to a head last week over political differences and a fight broke out, resulting in the deaths. A further 50 were injured. In a scary scenario, victims were killed by high-powered assault rifles, causing one senior policeman to express his concern about the widespread use of illegal firearms by villagers in the region.

Chimbu Provincial Police Commander Augustine Wampe said, "It’s scary that people are no longer using spears, arrows and bush knives. The use of guns has become rampant and it’s a very serious and worrying problem now." MPs and candidates in the region, who are contesting to become leaders, are known to have stockpiled illegal firearms to use in the election.

Former National Gaming Control Board boss Simon Sanangke is to appear in Mount Hagen District Court today, charged with firearm-related offences. He is challenging Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma for the Hagen Open seat. Police charged Sanangke from Ogelbeng village with two counts of being in possession of firearms and ammunition yesterday morning. Highlands Commander, Assistant Commissioner Teddy Tei, said Sanangke was released on K3,000 [US$1,441] bail and will appear in court for mention this morning.

Police conducted a dawn raid on Monday, confiscating two firearms and ammunition in Sanangke’s house.

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