The National, Tuesday, May 3, 2011
GRIEVING relatives, friends and landowners of Kaimari want justice over the death of Alex Epil.
They have called on Oil Search, Moro police and some landowner leaders to take full responsibility for the death.
Epil died allegedly as a result of a beating by police officers.
“So far, there have been three deaths at the hands of police since 2004 in the Kutubu oil project,” a relative said.
“We feel Oil Search should come out and not hide or pass the buck to the police or the landowners,” he said.
The provincial police commander said he was grilled at the Mendi police station by Epil’s relatives and was now liaising with Port Moresby counterparts to find documentation on operational orders that led to the death.
Relatives of the deceased claimed the police operation to remove illegal settlers in the Kutubu oil project area was carried out illegally but with the support of Oil Search.
Nipa leaders are now waiting for feedback from the Southern Highlands PPC, Oil Search and Moro police on the facts surrounding the death of the youth.
Epil’s body will be taken to Kaimari from Mendi hospital after a post-mortem examination has been completed.
“We want the Kaimari gate to be free from police and Oil Search security when we bring the body of Epil for his relatives to pay their last respects,” a community leader at Kaimari said.
The leader said the transportation of the body from Mendi to Moro would be peaceful and asked for a police escort.
Many relatives have warned that any attempt by police and Oil Search to stop them from bringing the body into Kaimari gate could prove tragic.
They claimed the support of 32 council wards of Nipa district and the Southern Highlands provincial administration.
Epil, 20, from Nipa, became a victim of police brutality over the Easter weekend when a police operation to burn down the homes of illegal settlers in Kaimari went wrong.
Reports said the youth was trying to save his store goods when he was brutally assaulted and died as a result.