By MIRIAM ZARRIGA and PETER WARI
TRAGEDY struck at the funeral service of a village chief when a stray bullet fired by a soldier is believed to have hit and killed a Grade 5 primary schoolboy in Hulia’s Yangone village last Saturday.
Hela police could not be reached for comment on the tragic shooting.
An Eastern Highlands policeman is in a critical condition at Tari Hospital after he was slashed by tribal fighters who raided and ransacked the Pai Mobile Squad barracks.
More than 10,000 people had gathered in the village in Komo-Margarima for a pig-slaughtering ceremony after the funeral service of a businessman village chief when pandemonium broke out in the crowd of tribal villagers.
The different tribal members, some armed, then started fighting in the midst of the crowd.
Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers providing security at the funeral gathering then moved in to disperse the crowd and warring tribes.
According to eye-witness Arina Hale, a Southern Highlands National Broadcasting Corporation journalist, a handful of warlords from different tribes started attacking each other in the crowd.
“The tribal fighters also tried to attack everyone in sight, including the soldiers.
“A soldier then fired a warning shot to disperse the crowd and tribes.
“The victim (boy) was in his residential area, a distance away from the scene, when the bullet from the warning shot is believed to have hit his chest and penetrated through his back. He died instantly,” he said.
Hale said the tribal fighters also raided and ransacked the police barracks where a policeman was seriously wounded.
He said law and order in the province had deteriorated significantly and attacking policemen showed the warlords had no respect or fear for the law.
“They are behaving like they can do anything they want or like,” he said.
Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea pastor Ezekiel Tamiako, father of the Wabia Primary School boy in Hela, has demanded an investigation to be carried out to determine the circumstances of the killing.
Tamiako, who was lost for words, said as a pastor he had always preached about peace but “now I have lost my son while mourning the village chief’s death”.
He said the pig-slaughtering ceremony and gathering was to commemorate the late Andaja Topani when the warlords took the opportunity to trigger the mayhem, setting a bad precedent.
“Police must conduct an immediate investigation into the crime and do its best to arrest the warlords who are terrorising villagers,” he added.
Meanwhile, about 70 members of the mobile squad have been deployed to Hela to provide support to police and the soldiers.
The policemen left Port Moresby on Tuesday morning.
Special Services Division director Julius Tasion said the manpower would help those on the ground to maintain law and order.
His second in command Chief Insp Florian Luvi said the men were sent to Hela to help contain continued law and order issues that had been causing problems in Hela.
“Our men will be on the ground to help the policemen in the province,” he said.
The National found out that the Pai Police Barracks had been ransacked by several men and the killing of the chaplin of the Dauli Teachers College.
Earlier this month, 20 people were killed in Hela after a brawl between cousins turned into a tribal fight, with families fleeing their homes to seek refuge in Tari and the United Church Hoiebia Mission Station.
The fight between the two cousins erupted in the Tagali LLG and spilled into the Pinagia and Mulubi in the Tebi LLG all in the Tari-Pori district.
No arrests have been made yet.
By MIRIAM ZARRIGA and PETER WARI