For want of dad, kids drowned

Editorial, Normal

The National- Friday, January 21, 2011

 IT is a most-saddening and heart-wrenching story of a woman who, faced with marital problems, took it all out with the murder of her four children by drowning.

Tragically, only after the death of the four innocent young ones, can we start realising the immense number of marital problems that she and countless women in Papua New Guinea endure daily.

Today, these four children may be still alive, for want of a loving mother and father.

Elis Onda, in a coldly-premeditated murder on July 4, 2009, drowned all four of her children in the Kum River near Mt Hagen in Western Highlands.

Driven by marital problems, her plan had been to drown herself along with her children but the river swept her to the side and she survived.

On Wednesday, the Mt Hagen National Court sentenced Onda to life imprisonment for the murder of eight-year-old Angeline, Tresy, 7, Naomi, 5, and two-year-old Solomon.

Justice Allan David found Onda guilty on four counts of wilful murder.

The court heard that on July 3, 2009, the prisoner dressed her children in their best clothes and took them to Warakum, telling her children that they would see a relative.

She took them to the banks of the river where they waited until 4am before she executed her plan.

She picked up Solomon, who was sleeping, and threw him into the river. 

She then picked up Naomi, who was also sleeping, and threw her into the river.

Then, grabbing her bigger daughters, Angeline and Tresy, by their arms she jumped with them into the river. All the children drowned but she was swept to the side of the river by the current and survived.

Nobody can imagine the mental anguish she endured as she contemplated her plan.

We are certain she wanted to kill herself but we can only imagine the pain she must have endured as she contemplated her children’s future without a father or mother.

In the end, she decided that she would take all of them with her. Tragically, they went and she was left behind – to face the consequences of her action.

The marriage problems that Onda and other women of Papua New Guinea go through are a never-ending story.

It begs the question of why, in such cases, the father of the children is not also arrested and questioned by police for his indirect role in the murder of his four children.

For without the marital problems, Onda would never have contemplated murder in the first place.

Justice, we feel, is incomplete because the cause of the distress which initiated the murder plot began with the marital problems, whatever they were.

David said the deceased children had nothing to do with her problems, even if they were part of the problems. We agree to an extent but we feel that the mother considered the kind of life her children would have led as orphans.

She was not without feeling. She was not evil. She could not submit her children to a cruel life without both parents.

The judge said her actions were cruel and inhuman and she had no regard for the sanctity of life.

If that be so, we say the actions of the father should be held up under the same light.

Too many times in this country, men abandon their wives and children, for a new lover or a second wife.

Polygamy gives rise to a depressed and suicidal wife, neglected children – without the love and attention of a father – and even violence and murder as the estranged wife confronts her “successor”.

The family may go hungry in the event that the father, if a sole breadwinner, deserts them.

This may lead to other problems, such as the wife and daughters turning to prostitution, given the harsh reality of life in modern day PNG.

The children, especially if boys, may become so psychologically affected that they resort to readily and cheaply-available alcohol such as homebrew and take solace in smoking marijuana, which proliferates in PNG.

In a vicious circle of events, their education becomes affected and they may end up in a life of crime, maybe shot dead by police as is the all-too-frequent case of many of our young men. 

The wife, without a loving man to lean on, may become suicidal.

Knowing the hardships her children would go through, without her or her husband, makes her decide to take them with her on that final journey as in the sad case of Onda.

The case of Onda and her four young children epitomises the morass of marital problems in this country.