PISAI GUMAR and SERAH AUPONG
THE murder of a youth from Tararan village in Wampar LLG along the Okuk Highway has led to the burning down of 25 bush material houses belonging to settlers.
A grass thatched-roof church belonging to the Church of Christ was also razed in two attacks last Wednesday and Thursday.
The settlement is near Tararan’s neighbouring Sumuampon village in the Leron Plains.
Most of the settlers are from Menyamya.
A Southern Highlands teacher, lost more than K60,000 worth of goods including his semi-permanent house, a vehicle and chicken coop in the fiery attacks.
All the settlers were left with no shelter and clothing and are sleeping in the open under mango trees and makeshift shelters of coconut fronds and banana leaves.
According to Zifasing police, the attack was in retaliation to the death of a Tararan villager last Wednesday evening.
He said the man, Don George, who is part Yabob village, Madang and Tararan had sold his fathers’ horse saddles, and went on a drinking spree in Lae with a friend who was a fellow villager.
He said they alighted a PMV at Rumion’s Noha Community School and then walked towards Tararan before George met his fate near Sumuampon village between 6-7pm last Wednesday.
Mr George was found lying dead on the highway after 8pm with scratches on his body, and knife wounds under his jaw.
When the news of the incident reached the relatives, angry youths mobilised and went on consecutive raids, settler and Noha Community School teacher Ronny Ben said.
Both raids were done after 7am and lasted for about two hours.
Four suspects are now in Mutzing police station cells while investigations are continuing.
The settlers are saying that they had bought the piece of land from customary landowner Gioka Steven for K3,866 in 2002.
Local villagers would not discuss the death further, saying the matter was now in the hands of police.
But, they insisted that the settlers, who are mostly from Menyamya – Hengati, Tsewi, Umba, Haiwamba, Wapazika – have been residing on a State lease land since the colonial days.
They accused the settlers of breaching the State’s boundaries and making gardens on customary land.