By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV, Port Moresby
In the aftermath of the latest reports of sorcery-related violence last week in the Southern Highlands Province, Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has vowed to ensure that the incidents would be investigated and perpetrators be reprimanded accordingly.
Speaking on ABC’s Pacific Beat program, O’Neill described sorcery-related violence as “not acceptable, unnecessary and not needed in the country.”
O’Neill expressed grave concern for victims of sorcery-related violence, and extended his sympathies to victims and their families.
The latest reports of sorcery-related violence include the brutal torture of three women in a village near Mendi last week. According to Southern Highlands Police Provincial Commander, Inspector Mas Tuman, the women were accused of using witchcraft to kill a person.
In an interview with Radio Zealand, Tuman said the women were tortured with burning rods by villagers. Two of the victims managed to escape their attackers, while the third was saved by local police. Inspector Tuman said that in their bid to curb sorcery-related violence, police were working on conducting an awareness campaign on local radio.
Law enforcers face immense challenges in dealing with sorcery-related violence, especially in remote villages that are inaccessible by road.
PM O’Neill said a lack of education and awareness has led to peoples superstitious beliefs overpowering good judgement. He said that his government was working closely with district authorities to strengthen their capacity to manage communities to build law and order, health, education, and other priority areas.
He added that it was “not that easy dealing with traditional societies” and PNG, like other countries, had its fair share of problems. However, the Prime Minister said that legislations to protect families from violence needed to be strengthen and laws had to be enforced, for perpetrators to be prosecuted.
In a statement, the UN country team in PNG said these attacks violate a person’s fundamental right to life and to be treated with dignity and respect. The UN further expressed their commitment to supporting the PNG government in these efforts, and will continue to work with law enforcement agencies to strengthen their capacity to address human rights violations.