Hickey says Madang no longer safe

National, Normal

MADANG, the beautiful town and a tourist hot spot, is no longer safe for anyone, a local member of parliament has declared.
John Hickey, Bogia MP and Minister for Agriculture, was attacked on Nov 14 in Madang a day after a group abducted four Australians and raped one of them.
Police have charged a man over the attack on the Australians.
The group of four Australians, two men and two women, were checking out surf spots on the north coast when they were attacked by a group of men armed with guns and knives.
Police have arrested two men and charged one with armed robbery, ABC reported.
A spokesman said investigators were preparing a photo board of suspects to send to Australia in the hope the sexual assault victim could identify her attacker.
 Hickey rang the ABC to warn people that Madang and its surrounds were no longer safe for tourists.
“There is a lot of petty crime on the streets in Madang,” he said.
“There is a lack of police presence in Madang town and there’s a lack of police presence and any semblance of control along the north coast.”
Tamlong Tab, from Siar village just outside Madang who used to be the community’s law and order chairman, said he believed the cause of the trouble was a province-wide liquor ban that had seen an explosion in the consumption of powerful homebrewed alcohol.
“It’s really pure alcohol being consumed by the youths and they don’t know what they’re doing and they just kill and later on when they are in trouble they are surprised. They don’t know they did.”
Anthropologist Nancy Sullivan agrees that homebrewed alcohol was a problem but said a bigger concern was the flood of people moving into the town’s settlements from other parts of the country.
She said Madang was paying the price for increased mining activity in the province and the PNG government’s plan to turn the area into an industrial hub.
“Anywhere you put a resource project you’re going to find law and order issues sort of erupt around them,” she said.
But Sir Peter Barter maintains that Madang is still safe.
He said the attack on the Australian tourists was appalling and had embarrassed PNG but said the area was still safe for tourists.
“But like many other parts of PNG, certain precautions have to be observed – such things as walking around together, knowing where you’re going and if you know that there’s some form of tension in a certain area then you know: Simply don’t go,” he said.
But Hickey agrees police resources have not kept pace with the area’s increasing population.