21 May 2003

PNG provincial governor takes legal action over state of jail

4:03 pm on 21 May 2003

The Governor of Papua New Guinea's Morobe Province says his lawyers will visit Buimo prison in Lae to gather evidence for a lawsuit against the government for gross human rights violations.

Luther Wenge says the prisoners are living like animals with no water or sanitation, inadequate food, no clothes and few beds, while there is a high incidence of violence and sodomy in the jail.

And he says there are 600 men crammed like matchsticks in a box into three buildings designed to house 50 people.

Recently two prisoners died from an illness which has medical authorities baffled.

Thirty others are now infected and are suffering high body temperatures, numbness in the limbs and respiratory problems.

Mr Wenge says the government must be held accountable for its neglect of the prisoners.

"Matters have been raised so many times in public forums like Parliament and provincial assemblys, but nothing has been done, so we have resolved to sue the State of Papua New Guinea.....they are just left there, they think thats where they belong and don't care what happens to them, and I think thats wrong....It goes against the constitution, and the constitution specifically mentions people who are in custody must be given fair treatment."

Luther Wenge, Morobe Governor.

Provincial medical authorities say the 30 prisoners have nervous disorders and that the autopsy results of those that died will be released this week.