Mendi madness must be stopped

Editorial

THE gravity of the situation in Mendi town and adjoining areas in Southern Highlands warrants immediate and decisive action now.
We do not want to imagine what the situation could possible descend to if the current lawlessness is allowed to continue further.
There has already been way too much violence, destruction and bloodshed during and after the recently concluded national election.
Voting and counting for the provincial seat in particular has been very contentious.  Following a spate of violence in Mendi town and protests by candidates over the conduct of the election and the counting itself, there were changes to election officials and counting had to be moved to Mt Hagen. Even then there has been no conclusive end to the counting.
From what has been made known in the mainstream media, counting for the provincial seat was disrupted and delayed for weeks because of a number of disputed ballot boxes.
Violence had already started in Mendi during the counting period and the Electoral Commission officials, for security reasons, shifted the remainder of the counting to Mt Hagen.
In the midst of the ongoing conflict over whether to count the disputed ballots, a declaration was made “under special circumstances”.
While tension remains and as rival candidates continue to question the wisdom of the declaration, in yet another spate of violence, three policemen and two teachers from Koroba in neighbouring Hela were ambushed and attacked last Saturday on the highway to Mendi town.
Two policemen and a teacher were reportedly killed in the attack while the third police officer and one of the teachers sustained serious injuries and are reportedly receiving treatment at the Mt Hagen General Hospital.
The public servants were returning from Mt Hagen to Koroba when they were set upon at Wara Anga market by a group travelling in a truck, according to police.
Highlands Western end regional police commander Kaiglo Ambane said the policemen and teachers stopped on the side for a drink of water when the people traveling in the truck stopped beside them and started attacking them, first with stones and later fired at them.
Ambane personally transported the three deceased and the two injured men from Ialibu Health Centre to Mt Hagen on Sunday.
Last Saturday’s killings, we are to believe, are not linked to the election. The policemen are from Hela province and not Southern Highlands.
Yet the incident happened in a period of general lawlessness that started from the election which has not been dealt with effectively.
The spill-over from the election can easily affect people and establishments which have no connection to the outcome of the election if not attended to.
Lawlessness since the election period has been allowed to continue unchecked.
About two months ago, two other young policemen were shot dead and another seriously injured in Wabag town, Enga province.
Killing policemen in such manner is a brazen attack on the State itself. It shows serious disrespect for the very law that holds the country together and safeguards even the rights of the persons who pulled the trigger on the policemen.
And as stated by Police Minister Jelta Wong following the weekend attack, this is a matter not to be taken lightly.
Wong says any deliberate attack on members of the police force or other government security personnel will not be taken lightly and will be responded to in a manner that will deter any future occurrence.
It would be total anarchy if policemen are threatened and made to stand by helplessly when thugs run riot in Mendi, which is apparently the case right now.
This calls for immediate and decisive action to bring home the message that there is still a government in control.

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