16 Oct 2003

PNG governor blames wealthy for growing gun numbers in Enga province

12:39 pm on 16 October 2003

The wealthy are being blamed for the rising death toll from gun battles in Papua New Guinea's Enga province.

Enga's governor, Peter Ipatas, says politicians, businessmen, public servants and professional people are arming tribes with sophisticated weapons and sending them to war for their own personal gain.

He says they are to blame for instigating tribal warfare and armed confrontations of a magnitude never before seen in the province.

"The damage that has been done with high-powered guns is enormous. When you look at the property being lost, the lives lost, it is on a very frightening scale. I'm saying that the people, the villagers, cannot afford to buy these high-powered weapons, so my assumption is that people who have jobs, people who have access to funds are the ones who are funding the high-powered weapons."

Mr Ipatas says that traditional warfare had the backing of the whole tribe, but the kind of wars now being waged are being engineered by people with guns and ammunition.

He says it is up to the police to properly investigate and prosecute these people to help bring lawlessness under control.