By GABRIEL LAHOC
SIXTY-five suspects from Buang area have been arrested and charged with arson, wilful damages of a small Labu community, and the kidnap and double murder of a couple.
They are expected to appear in the Committal Court today.
Provincial police commander Supt Peter Guinness said the people of Labu, including Buang leaders, were not happy over the mass arrest which occurred in the presence of Bulolo MP Sam Basil.
The 65 were alleged to be part of a group that raided and set alight 30 houses in the Pigua community last December, less than 24 hours after kidnapping a husband and wife from their garden.
The husband’s body was found two weeks later in a shallow grave while the wife was found more than a month later in a dried river bed.
The Labu people had been cooperating with the police since the attack but yesterday voiced their concern regarding the manner in which the suspects were arrested and charged.
Labu elder and spokesman Aaron Aima is concerned the “process was not done in a neutral area, and that the suspects were arrested and charged in the presence of a parliamentarian”.
“The legal process should have taken place at the right place which is the police station,” he said.
Supt Guinness said police could not go into Buang to arrest the suspects, so they voluntarily turned themselves in with the assistance of their local leaders.
“Charging and arresting them is one aspect of the process, and the police are relying heavily on the Buang leaders,” Supt Guinness said.
All four ward councillors from Labu gave their support for the course of justice to take place, but have denounced what they see as lack of cooperation from Huon Gulf MP Sasa Zibe and former Bulolo MP Samson Napo.
“These crimes were some of the worst on record, and unlike Mr Basil’s, we are not happy with Mr Zibe’s lack of presence and advice since day one,” Mr Aima said.
The Labu people also called on Mr Napo to make a public apology in person, after he discouraged the Buang people to hand over the suspects to police.