CATHERINE WILSON | Inter Press Service [extracts]
IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA, where more than 60% of major crimes involve guns, a burgeoning illegal arms trade is associated with lack of employment growth and low human security, with vulnerable communities suffering the consequences.
This is the case in the autonomous region of Bougainville, where disarmament remains elusive more than 10 years after a civil war.
“Guns are now being used in domestic violence and armed robberies, and to settle land issues,” said Helen Hakena, director of the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency in Bougainville.
“Recently there have also been armed hold-ups and shoot-outs between gun owners and police. Many people in Bougainville now accept guns as a normal part of life.”
Development and economic recovery in Bougainville have been slow over the past decade, and many issues from the civil war have not been resolved.
“We also see that guns are being traded between Bougainville and other parts of PNG and across borders. People from the Highlands often come here to buy guns,” Hakena said.
In the Bougainville civil war, 20,000 people were killed and more than 60,000 displaced, while a “lost generation” of children were denied education and infrastructure was decimated.
Gun violence is a serious issue in PNG. Port Moresby, with a population of 450,000, has a murder rate of 54 per 100,000 people, compared to an average global rate of less than 7 per 100,000 people.
And in the Southern Highlands, where an estimated 90% of firearms are illegally owned, 23% of households have been victimised by guns.
In 2005, PNG’s Guns Control Committee produced a report which made numerous recommendations for gun reforms. But these have never been acted upon.
There is a known link between the trade in guns and drugs. The illicit commercial cultivation of marijuana has been identified in PNG, where it is regularly traded for firearms.