By WALLY HIAMBOHN
PEACE, security and government services are returning to the Kompiam district of Enga following the peaceful resolution of an eight-month-old tribal conflict that caused multiple deaths and destruction and halted the district’s progress.
Last Saturday, the district’s warring tribes completed the peace process and ended months of agony. This positive outcome resulted from the intervention of a son of Kompiam, Secretary for Finance Dr Ken Ngangan, who took it upon himself to initiate and broker peace and ensure the killings and destruction stopped and government services and general progress returned to this far-flung remote district that borders the Western Highlands and East Sepik provinces, and is home to 85,000 people.
The conflict between the Yaowans and the Tinalapin tribes saw the killing of 45 people, caused millions of kina worth of property damage– including to homes, trade stores and cash crops – and forced schools, health and other government services to close. Many people were forced to leave their home.
During last Saturday’s peace ceremony, hundreds of pigs and large sums of money changed hands between the two tribes as compensation and as commitment to peace. Local peace, the good order committee and members of the security forces assisted in making the deal a peaceful process.
Said Dr Ngangan: “This conflict started from a small thing and developed into a warfare that cost many lives and properties.
“I had to go in and out of the district many times during the conflict that occurred during election time to negotiate and broker peace.
“Finally, last Saturday the final settlement took place and there is now peace on the land. It now means that the public servants will have to go back to work. There is a functioning Kompian rural hospital, we got doctors there, expatriate doctors, Australians, with their families are still in there, including Dr David Mills, who is also the president of the PNG Rural Doctors Association who has served in Kompiam for well over 17 years.
“We now have to get the public service machinery back to Kompiam station. We will start that process by reviving the district finance office functions, finance officers will return, we will start by asking them to go back and start operating.
“Both sides (of the conflict) have made a commitment that government services must be restored, schools, aid posts, health centres and the finance office, all will now be restored.”
Dr Ngangan has appealed to the two tribes and the people of the district to avoid conflict. Too often, he said, when conflicts or issues arose, people tended to take up arms immediately without considering the consequences of their actions.
“My challenge to both the people of Yaowans and Tinalapins and also the people of Kompiam was that they should first resort to the legal avenues – the court system, the village court, the local courts, the police, the security and peace officers who are already there to help them in such situations,” he said.
“They are the first point of contact to take their grievances to when issues come about.
“What is happening now is that we allow our anger to take the upper hand and the good thinking comes later on without realising the things we’ve done is bad and should not have been done.
“Had people resorted to the established legal processes, those killings, destructions and violence would not have come about.
“My appeal to the people of Kompiam is, let’s use the government systems, let’s avoid the same mistakes and regrets.
“Let’s rebuild lives that have been built over many, many years; let’s rebuild the schools, let’s focus on education, let’s get kids into classes and get their future prepared now, so that they have a better life, a peaceful life.
“I am grateful to the two warring parties, particularly their respective leaders, for responding positively to our efforts to put an end to the conflict and for realising that violence solves nothing and that there are more reasons for ending conflict than continuing it.”
- Wally Hiambohn is a freelance journalist.