The National, Friday 7th September, 2012
By YVONNE HAIP
ENGA Governor Peter Ipatas says police have to to own up and admit there is a tribal fight in Kandep before a call-out for soldiers can be made to the “war zone”.
Ipatas made the call on Wednesday after provincial police commander Martin Lakari said the “hide and seek” series of election-related payback killings in the district had slowed down.
Supt Lakari said fighting had stopped since the deployment of extra police there and the “situation is quiet”.
But Ipatas said there was a guerrilla fight and “everybody knows that there is a fight in Kandep”.
“How can he (Lakari) say there is no fight when many have died and millions of kina worth of assets lost? How did that happen?” Ipatas asked.
“Police should be proactive instead of waiting for deaths.”
Ipatas, who had been accused of playing politics when he condemned the fight, said: “It is no time to play politics, why would I be playing politics when people’s lives are at stake?
“Police must own up because weapons are being used, people have died, and obviously something is wrong.”
Ipatas, who had called on the government to send the army to contain the violence in Kandep, said there were processes in place where police had to own up before a call-out could be made for the deployment of soldiers.
Reports from Kandep said a fierce gun battle was in progress, with the death toll exceeding 40 since the fight began two months ago.
Public servants said more than 300 people had suffered bush knife wounds, while hundreds had been left homeless after their homes were razed.
They claimed that on Wednesday three people were shot dead, while last Sunday a man was stabbed to death in Porgera.
They said police were outgunned and outnumbered as the warriors were using high-powered and sophisticated firearms.
A teacher at Kambia Primary School in Mariand, Coy Kawi, said the Kambia and Laswet primary schools had closed, while the Lakalap and Tinjipak primary schools were damaged during the tribal fight.
Kawi said the Tinjipak and Kambia health centres had shut their doors.
“More than 2,000 children are not in school and Grade 8 students might miss out on the national examinations,” he said.
But Lakari maintained that these reports were not true and there was no gun battle.
“These are unconfirmed speculation, the situation is quiet because of police presence and I have not heard of the 40 deaths,” he said.
He said there had been only two deaths during polling and counting in the general election where enemies conducted “hide and seek” attacks by singling out enemies in crowds and staging surprise attacks.
He urged public servants to return to Kandep as they had a responsibility to serve the people.