LAE - This story about Kela village in the Salamaua area is shocking. Kela is a gorgeous and peaceful place. Or was. Now the whole village is homeless and the people have lost all their belongings.
Anyway, here’s a report from an academic friend of mine based in Lae about the violence that affected Kela village in the Salamaua area of the Huon Gulf.
The village that you took me to, Kela, had every house set on fire in a village fight recently - 52 homes, some burned to nothing but ashes.
Two people were wounded in gunfire and boats and outboards were damaged.
It started when some of the Kela young men found a cache of Japanese weapons and ‘tested’ them.
The cache was close to the Salamaua Health Centre and school and the shots scared the health centre workers. The administrator came in and closed both the centre and the school for safety.
Unfortunately he never came back to reopen them.
After about three months, a couple of women from a nearby community died for lack of medical treatment, and the Kela community was blamed.
They were attacked about two weeks ago and the authorities went to secure the weapons and to try to negotiate peace between the villages, but nothing was done to help the homeless.
Several churches have sent supplies, and the councillor took goods from Busama. It has been a nasty business, with no easy answer.
Unfortunately this has become a typical Papua New Guinean reaction - an over-dramatised shooting from the hip or simply turning one’s back on a problem.
The incident can be as trivial as a single library book stolen by a student causing the closure of an entire library.
I have seen this kind of unthinking reaction so many times.
Papua New Guinea needs honest, responsible and smart administrators who can solve problems, not exacerbate them.