Day of mourning

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The National, Friday 26th April 2013

A NATIONAL day of mourning, a haus krai (house of mourning), will be held on May 15 to highlight the violence and suffering of women in Papua New Guinea through allegations of witchcraft, rape, and murder.

It is being organised by American preacher, Stephen Michael Leach, in light of all the recent cases of violence against women in PNG.

“The burning of a woman suspected of witchcraft in Hagen shocked us as a nation,” he told The National.

“Internationally, it shocked the world that this could happen in 2013.

“We thought that was the worst, but over the last few weeks, we have watched as the situation has deteriorated.

“Violence has escalated at a phenomenal rate,” Leach added.

“The violence has brought such shame upon Papua New Guinea, absolute shame upon this nation.

“It went from there to the killing of an Australian man and the rape of his Filipino friend in Hagen, the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Lae, and the rape of my American wantok on Karkar Island, Madang, and the killing of three women accused of witchcraft on Bougainville,” Leach said.

“All of this comes in as a flood at the same time, she said.

“That’s why we came up with the idea of a national haus krai. If there is one thing Papua New Guineans can do right, it is mourning.

“On May 15, we’re going to have a sit-in protest at parliament. We’re going to have a haus krai. 

“We call on all men and women, not only in Port Moresby but across the country to hold a haus krai for their mothers, their sisters, their wives, their daughters, who are being senselessly slaughtered.

“We will take it to parliament and weep, so that not only the politicians can see that the grassroots are suffering, but also the world can see that we are not all barbaric. Collectively, we as a nation, have blood on our hands and we need to have this haus krai.”

Women in Madang gathered earlier this week to protest the rape of the American scientist on Karkar.

They presented two petitions – to the national and provincial governments – protesting violence against women and calling for stern measures against perpetrators.

Madang Governor Jim Kas, when accepting the petition apologised to the scientist, her family and the people of the United States for the rape last Thursday of the American scientist on 

“There’s no other word to describe this situation, all I will need to say is I am deeply ashamed and on behalf of my people, I would like to say sorry America,” Kas said.

The 32-year-old scientist was conducting as research on global warming issues with her husband and a local guide when nine men approached them, tied up her husband and the guide and took turns raping her. 

Police report said the nine men were from Kevasop village in the Waskia side of Karkar Island.

Finance Minister James Marape, who was present during the petition in Madang, announced his support to implement death penalty for rapists.

“I urge Karkar Islanders not to hide the suspects. If you hide them, I will pump in allowances for police to come and raid you,” Marape said.

Local Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather wept publicly to show his deepest embarrassment and Usino-Bundi MP Anton Yagama said it was time the government amend constitutional laws and give powers to police to fully exercise their powers.

He said right now human rights laws were preventing police from exercising their full powers

Madang PPC Sylvester Kalaut said police would be working hard to apprehend all suspects soon.