HOUSTON, USA - The remote highlands regions of Papua New Guinea has recently been the subject of international attention in the wake of a brutal massacre.
The remote village of Karida saw an outbreak of tribal violence last week as part of ongoing conflicts in some of the country’s most remote provinces.
While tribal conflict and warfare have historically been an issue for PNG, the rate and escalation of violence has increased in recent years.
This is due in a large part to the provision of high-powered weapons that has led to a marked change in the way conflict has unfolded.
In traditional fighting, there would usually be few deaths. But this new supercharged violence kills many more, including civilians and children. This has also a limiting effects on the provision of aid and medical relief, as it is harder to access remote areas without placing international aid workers in danger.
PNG prime minister James Marape, in whose electorate the events took place, has called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
As recently as 2013, PNG reinstated the death penalty and since then 16 people have been placed on death row but no sentences have been carried out. The international community widely condemns the use of the death penalty.
With modern armaments escalating conflicts, the PNG government needs to review its approach to ensuring violence like this is brought to an end.
Marape has voiced concerns that the country’s police force and security apparatus are in need of reinforcement and must be adequately funded and resourced to handle events like these.
The country hosted the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that provided an opportunity for PNG to put its case to the international community but it was characterised by great power games between the USA and China. Since then, the violence has gotten worse.
The international community, in particular Australia, should look to assist the new prime minister in his attempt to alleviate tribal violence, preferably without imposing the death penalty.
Australian aid remains constant and at a high level and Australia should help the PNG government in this area in its role as a respected middle power.
An initial measure may be to deploy peacekeeping forces, federal police and aid workers from Australia in a similar way Australia was involved in East Timor and the Solomon Islands in the early 2000s.