Lusim gan na holim sapol

Editorial, Normal

IN volatile and conflict-torn highlands communities where a man sleeps with his axe in his hand, and goes to the toilet with a bush knife, the action by the Lilikiuk tribe of Maramuni, Enga, would be considered a cowardly act.
You can say no to an act of aggression once or twice but, when five men are slain in cold blood, every DNA in every man’s blood cries out for revenge.  Not to avenge the killings is to invite ridicule and accusations of cowardice.
Yet, the Lilikiuk have said “no!” each time, leaving it in the hands of the law.
Instead of turning to war, the tribe has opted to work hard to help complete a road that is being driven in the wilds of Mt Maramuni to connect that remote district for the first time to Wabag and the outside world.
Is it cowardice?
The National says it sees differently. The tremendous restraint shown by the Lilikiuk is a spectacular display of courage that has no comparison.
It is easy to take up arms, and this tribe did. The conflict between the Lilikiuk on one side and Lapiso, the Pepesagin, Makaun and Eregin tribes on the other has been going on for a long time. Eight people were killed on one side and a matching eight were felled on the other side.
But, last October, the tribes laid down their arms in a peace brokered by their local MP and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Samuel Abal.
The minister did not go in merely with a message of peace.
He told the people to turn away from violence and engage in peaceful and fruitful pursuits. He introduced to the people his lusim gan na holim sapol principle, to literally abandon guns and take up the spade.
Abal tied his government assistance, particularly under his district services, to obedience to this principle. And, he did not go empty-handed. He said he was driving a road that would connect Wabag to Maramuni for the first time.
Tragically, it was while working on this road that two youths were brutally slain on Monday as they returned home to pick up food for the men working on the road.
Last October, the Lilikiuk did listen to Abal. And, they did lay down their arms – it seems, now, permanently.
Their enemies were deceitful.
No sooner was the minister’s aircraft in the air, they turned on 24-year-old Jasmen Ale and murdered him – at the airstrip.
He was brother to three-term councillor Salip Sundo.
Sundo told his people: “We shall not take up arms. He is my brother. We bury him. The police will take care of this.”
On Monday, two youths, of perhaps 14, were shot in front of the mother of one of them. As the mother and a little brother fled for safety, the assailants moved in and hacked the bodies of Stewart Karado and Mek Minas with axes and bush knives and scattered body parts among sweet potato mounds.
Police have detained one suspect.
Murders of this kind are not uncommon in these parts, but what is most uncommon is the response to the killing by the tribe of the dead boys.
Sundo said: “I have buried three people already and I said no to fight with my enemies. I will bury my two boys and I still say no to this temptation.
“If they kill one more of my people tomorrow or two or four, I will not fight. I have reported the killings. I will let the law handle this.
“I choose the way of development. I choose to lusim gan na holim sapol.”
The councillor explained: “My first reason for stopping is that I need government service.
“My second reason is that I need church service.
“My third reason is that I have adopted Abal’s lusim gan na holim sapol policy.
“My final reason is that I see my people sell betelnut in Wabag and I think they have better produce at home to sell if only there was a road.
“I am building the road now and nothing will stop me from completing it.
“If you have lived without services like the way my people live, you will know why I have chosen the way of the law,” Sundo said.
“On the blood of my boys, I will bring development. The son of Sir Tei Abal has thought of Maramuni when no one else has ever thought of us.
“He wants us to lusim gan na holim sapol, so we will do it. We will complete the road.”
It is an attitude that has found happy resonance in the minister despite the tragic killings.