Guns changing the way we live

Editorial, Normal

THERE are communities scattered throughout the towns of PNG who are landless.
When you take a closer look at these landless people, they have varying backgrounds. One group comprises the people who have grown up in towns and cities.
This is the class of people whose parents might have had land holdings on their traditional land but through a lifetime of employment in towns, they have left behind children who have not gone home to claim what is rightfully theirs by inheritance.
And since land holding is a communal thing at rural settings, where physical presence and land use speaks louder than anything else, these town grown children are essentially outcasts in their own land.
They join the increasing numbers that cluster around squatter settlements and make grabs at State or traditional land on the fringes of towns. These children are there to stay.
They do not have any place to go to in any case.
This group is mostly youths and the oldest of the group would now themselves be rearing a second generation of landless children.
There is yet another group of landless who are placing pressure upon limited resources and service lines on the fringes of towns and cities.
These are the people who have been displaced in tribal conflicts and hail mostly from the five Highlands provinces.
These people had homes, gardens and land but they have been physically and brutally forced from their homes.
Studies will show these people fled for their lives and although they yearn to go back, it is not there for them.
And the reason why they cannot return is the gun culture that has sprung up.
The gun rules society today.
Once upon a time, tribal conflicts were a conflict resolution method.
When mediation and all other forms of peaceful settlement failed, a conflict was taken to the battlefield.
 The victor took the spoils. People fled the land but eventually came back and surrounding tribes always ensured that land belonging to a tribe remained intact for that tribe.
Not any more. With guns, tribes face wholesale massacre and are fleeing never to return.
The gun is changing the way we live. Guns are used to maul, to maim, to rape, to rob and to scare away entire communities.
Yet no government, including this one, has come up with a firm policy on what to do with the proliferation of guns in PNG.
The Somare administration established the Guns Committee in 2005 under the chairmanship of retired General Jerry Singirok.
Immediately it undertook a nationwide assessment of the guns proliferation issue and related issues. The team undertook a nationwide road show and spoke to a huge cross-section of the population.
Not surprisingly, locals and expatriates spoke passionately about guns and the cost to the nation of their illegal use.
Although concerns were voiced everywhere, it was in the Highlands that it became abundantly clear
how guns were completely ruling and in most instances ruining the lives of communities there.
Entire villages have been wiped out as a result and whole communities have been displaced permanently, most of whom are to be found in urban settings such as Lae and Port Moresby.
Often the animosities follow these migrants into the cities so that the nation has witnessed gruesome payback killings right in the centre of towns in broad daylight.
Guns have also tilted the balance of power at the community level.
Power now revolves around who owns the most powerful gun around.
In the competition, therefore, to gain power tens of thousands of kina, young brides and scores of domestic livestock, particularly pigs, have been given in exchange for guns.
So why are the Government and Parliament dragging their feet on tabling the Gun Committee Report and in implementing its 244 recommendations?
It makes you wonder whether our leadership is in touch with what is happening.