By ALISON ANIS
SORCERY related killings in the Highlands region have severely undermined the rule of law by creating barriers with the communities who sanctioned such murders, Law and Justice Sector (LJS) chairman Gasper Lapan said.
Mr Lapan said strong witchcraft, sorcery and sanguma beliefs fed community hostility towards those accused and are a major law and order problem especially in Eastern Highlands, Simbu and Western Highlands provinces.
“Law enforcement interventions have not been successful because generally there is no respect for the rule of law when it comes to sorcery killings,” he said.
Mr Lapan was speaking to journalists at a recent workshop organised by Medial Council of PNG where he reported the high number of brutal killings and other sorcery-related crimes.
He said what was reported in the media was just the tip of the iceberg and that such killings occurred almost daily regardless of whether a person had been ill or died as a result of an accident.
“Victims were mostly women and other vulnerable members of the society, and those suspected of the murders are mostly young men under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” he said.
Mr Lapan said there are varied reasons for the rise in sorcery-related killings and some motives had been attributed to socio-economic status, fraud and trickery, lack of understanding and education of the scientific causes of death.
“The deteriorating status of Government services are the reasons for such killings,” he said.
The police are limited to mediatory roles as little is known about the sorcery Act of 1971 which is currently under review.
“Sorcery beliefs are deeply embedded into the cultures and is therefore hard to eradicate,” he said.
Mr Lapan said LJS was working together with the police, village courts, churches and women’s peace committee to promote peace and harmony in conflict areas through an integrated community approach targeting education awareness for village councillors and others.