By REBECCA KUKU
Hela Province is host to a number of many natural resources projects that benefit Papua New Guinea.
The current biggest project, includes the PNG LNG Project source area of Hides, Angore, Kutubu, Moro, Moran and Mananda oil fields.
But despite its beauty and its resources tribal warfare continues to ravage their land as families are left homeless, children fatherless and women widowed at an early age as law and order issues continue to rise.
Cassie Kamuni is a 19-year-old widow with two young children aged three and one. Not only was her husband killed in a tribal fight but her father and two brothers as well.
“When I was 15 years old, they came in the night and killed my father and two brothers, my mother took us and we ran away back to her village.
“Without a father and brothers to stand up for us we were left defenseless, so my mum gave my hand in marriage to an old warrior who already had three wives, I was to become the fourth.
“But that is our way of life, one of his daughters is the same age as me, and we became friends.He was kind to me.”
“Though there were times when his other wives, older than I would attack me and beat me, we later became good friends and they loved my children and treated them as they were their own.
“But soon the tribal warfare began again, my husband left with his men after two weeks word reached us that he had died in battle.”
Cassie has gone back to her mother’s village but now with young ones to care for.
“All my husband’s worldly things were shared amongst the older sons; my children and I were given nothing.”
“We are now left at the mercy of my mother and her people to care for us,” she says.
Cassie says tribal fighting robbed her ofa normal childhood.
“If my father was not killed, I would be in high school now, but now I am a mother and again tribal fighting has robbed my children of a father.
“Such is the way of life for us, but it is how it has always been,” she says.
Hela Governor Philip Undialu says that Cassie’s story is just one of the many untold stories of his people.
“I can honestly say that tribal fighting has caused many damages, destructionand claimed many lives in Hela.
“Tribal fighting unlike the earthquake which just happened and is over, continues on a daily basis. Every day homes are burnt, people killed and it is an obstacle that we face every day.
“There areno actual figures, but I can say that there has been too many lives lost in tribal fights,” he said.
Undialu said that they have started holding peace mediation talks and called for the surrender of firearms but it would take a while.
“Though Hela is a resource-rich province in terms of oil and gas deposits, not everyone is benefiting from the extraction of these resources.
“That’s why, our focus is on building the welfare of individuals and that we can achieve through driving the agriculture sector and agribusinesses.”
Undialu said that the provincial government has started creating more job opportunities for their people in the hopes that warriors would lay down their arms.
“The provincial government in partnership with the LR Group from Israel established the Piwa Agro project at Tari producing around 8,000 chickens per month and Koroba Agro in the Koroba-Lake Kopiago electorate producing around 11,000 eggs per month.
“When you look at the benefits of these agribusinesses, they are generating a fair bit of income into the community.
“For instance, we have more than 30 local workers for Koroba Agro and if they are paid K350 per fortnight, you are looking at around K10,500 plus injected to the village every two weeks.
“In a month, it’s more than K20,000 put directly into people’s pockets.”
Undialu said the same was done for Piwa Agro and the price of eggs which used to be K1.50 each is now 70 toea.
“Our focus is to improve the welfare of our people and we hope to achieve that by investing more in the agriculture sector.”
He said the total investment made to establish the chicken farm was around K20million and the provincial government owns 80 per cent whilst the LR Group owns 20 per cent.
“Our next target is Wigman coffee and that will be the biggest agribusiness we will drive in the province with the aim to train around 5,000 farmers and plant around 15million coffee trees.”
Undialu hopes that with all these job opportunities people will start laying down their arms.
He said they were working on helping their people to become independent and also provide some stability in their lives so that people would have something to protect and will lay down their arms.
“We will also be providing materials for building homes for those who willingly surrender their firearms.
“If these people have permanent homes and jobs they will lay down arms because they would not want a tribal fight that would probably end with their homes being burnt.
“At the moment the homes are made of bush materials so they have no care; they can easily rebuild them again, but if we give them a stable home, they will want to protect them knowing it would not be easy to rebuild again if they get burnt down in a tribal fight,” he said.
Undialu said they were doing their best to address the issue within the province through their society context but also needed support from the National Government, non-governmental organisations, churches and other partners to address the ongoing tribal fights.
By REBECCA KUKU