Time to end payback mentality

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday November 24th, 2015

 FORGIVENESS can be a powerful tool for change in society. 

It can heal raw emotional wounds and subdue rage, vengeance, resentment and intolerance in even the hardest of characters.

The definition of forgiveness is the conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

In Papua New Guinea where payback system of rife in times of conflict, there are some men that are rising above this base but powerful instinct so entrenched in our society.

The recent clashes in Lae, Morobe, between the local youth and Highlanders has seen the ethnic groups from the two regions take up positions of hostility and this has threatened to impact negatively on the city and its citizens, most of whom it can be said are law-abiding people who want to live and work in peace.

In one of the initial clashes between the settlers on Monday, November 9, a man from Enga was killed and this put the Morobe capital in a precarious position as the city’s large Engan community looked set to retaliate in typical Highlands fashion but despite the threats and posturing from both sides in the days after the incident, sanity and reason thankfully prevailed.

The family of the dead man took a stance that is worth commending because it flies in the face of every natural instinct which is to avenge.

They accepted the death, grieved and mourned over the loss of their loved one but stood resolute on the next course of action. 

They wanted justice, the type the law of the land could deliver and not the type they themselves and many others in Papua New Guinea have grown accustomed to see being meted out.

The family of Jacob Kos said ultimately they wanted peace to prevail and for the killer/s to be brought to justice and be answerable for their crime.

Kos’s father Pait and brother Nelson, as well as a group of relatives and kinsmen, said there was no point in retaliating; that to answer the death of their son with any form of violence would only exacerbate the situation. This action should be commended because the aggrieved party put the greater good of the community and city ahead of its needs; their traditional recourse to take an eye for an eye was replaced by the deference to the law.

“There have been all sorts of frightening reports in the media about revenge attacks and payback killings from the Engan community in Lae. But we are here to say these claims are not true,” Kos’s uncle Jimmy Wapi said.

“The case is with the police and we will let the law take its course.

“In our custom, if you kill one of us, we will retaliate by taking 10 lives. But we refuse to take revenge have lived in Lae city for a very long time and we have come to call ourselves Morobeans.”

We cannot judge the motives of the Engans but praise them for their restraint not because they were prone to violence in the first place but because they took stock of the situation and realised that violence is not the answer because it only begets more.

It will be interesting to see whether a claim for compensation will be put forward, as is customary when killings happen, or if the Kos family will stay the course and see justice served. 

It is now incumbent on the Lae Police to ensure the perpetrators are identified, found and charged after all the Engans have brought the matter to their door step and left it for them to attend which was proper thing to do.

The police must complement the community now and do their duty competently and professionally as everyone expects them to. 

To forgive is a powerful act and one hopes that this example is remembered by all ethnic groups that inhabit the country’s second largest city. 

While tensions may still be high, all sensible people in Lae, and in fact around the country, can take comfort in the knowledge that we are not all just mindless savages reduced to our basest actions when wronged or done a bad turn by our fellow man.

It is a start.