When police and the relatives of young constable raided Madang’s Wagol settlement, in retaliation to his murder, Lucy Brinki and more than 100 other families became victims of the attack.
The Wagol community accused of harboring the suspects, bore the brunt of the attack.
One hundred and twenty houses were destroyed and the elderly were among those who lost their homes. Like all man-made disasters, putting all the of events into context and attaching human faces to the destruction is key to understanding the difficulties the people of Madang are going through.
Eight of the houses destroyed belonged to Divine Word University staff. On the day of the raid, Lucy Brinki’s husband who works at the university couldn’t come home because relatives of the constable Franko Horake and other opportunists, had blocked off roads leading to Wagol.
“When he came the next day, he was heartbroken. He thought of the time he spent to build our house. He looked at the wire mesh. He cried.”
The family home was completely destroyed in a fire.
“First vehicle came and went. Then a second vehicle came… They fired shots… PAK! PAK! PAK! My three-year-old grandchild ran to me. Then my nine-year-old granddaughter clutched me tightly. Then my house was set on fire.”
Divine Word University’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Pais Bokorum, says the surge in crime is affecting everyone. University staff whose houses were destroyed were accommodated and fed on the campus for several nights.
“Some of them have tents and some don’t. In the month of September, there were five deaths in Madang. That’s quite scary. Parents are going to reconsider sending their children to school here.”
In the center of town, petty crimes have become common. Between three and five cases of theft and harassment are posted on social media every day. There is no real data available for these occurrences. Many are not formally reported.
The general sense of insecurity is impacting businesses in Madang. As the Provincial Police Commander, Manzuc sat down for an interview with EMTV Online, his men received a report of an armed robbery in town. Later, he finds out, criminals stole more than K50,000 from a company during a bank run.
Vice President of the Madang Chamber of Commerce, Chris Seeto, says he is concerned that the Madang Provincial Government lacks a strategy to deal with the rise in crime.
“The people on the ground are feeling the effects of the law and order issue. Businesses are also feeling the effects. We have leaders who have put their hands up to lead and they should come up with a solution to resolve this problem.”
Pamela Eugeno, who started an anti-crime campaign on Facebook after her sister was attacked in broad daylight says the state of affairs in Madang is unacceptable. Despite all the negativity against Madang police, she says police need a lot more help than they are getting.
“They don’t have vehicles and fuel. They don’t have the basic stationary. I mean, how do you expect them to do their job if they don’t have cars to move around? And they’re struggling to keep up with the public demands given the crime rate in Madang.”
Back in Wagol, the families who bore the brunt of public anger will have to rebuild their lives. Many took several years to build houses that were destroyed in a matter of minutes.