6 Jun 2013

Bougainville group calls for respect for sanctity of life

4:52 pm on 6 June 2013

The Bougainville Human Rights Committee says it is up to Bougainvilleans themselves to take action and ensure an end to sorcery killings.

The Committee says it has reports of 40 murders in the past 4 years in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province.

The PNG government late last month abolished the Sorcery Act, which had shielded people from charges over alleged sorcery killings, but the Committee's chairperson, Helen Hakena, told Don Wiseman change will only come when people respect the sanctity of human life.

HELEN HAKENA: We see that it will be workable if people do the changes themselves. Like when the human rights committee of North Bougainville met today, we asked and pleaded the people of Bougainville to start to respect people's lives and start to work together in our communities, to take action to stop people to continue to accuse people of sorcery. So I think this is the way to follow in Papua New Guinea. If the government is making laws people will not follow it, but the people themselves need to say what they want, what they will try to do in their communities.

DON WISEMAN: I guess it's still important for governments and police to take a lead in this process, though.

HH: Yes, particularly police. They need to investigate and prosecute all cases of sorcery-related killing, because here in Bougainville we have seen that the police, they're outnumbered by criminals, they're outnumbered by the number of cases we have, they're outnumbered by issues. They don't have enough vehicles or they do not have enough manpower. So that's why we have been calling on the ABG to continue to push the Bougainville police to investigate even though they are limited in number.

DW: Now, there was a very high-profile incident with an elderly woman, a teacher accused of being a sorcerer earlier this year, and she was murdered. People who came to the aid of the other people that were with her have since been demanding compensation, and you see this as abhorrent.

HH: Yes, we have heard last week and early this week that there are claims worth 265,000 kina. It has been lodged with the autonomous Bougainville government by individuals seeking compensation or payment for helping just one case, the related killing of the late Helen Rumbali. So there are claims coming through. So we are calling on our government, the ABG , not to entertain such claims. Because in the first place, these people were very sorry. Through their own emotions they wanted to help the family and the victim, so why now ask for compensation when it should have been just the type of help that every Bougainvillean should have been giving a sister or a brother who is in need? So we have been appalled by this report. That's why the human rights committee of North Bougainville met to try to do something to call on the government not to entertain. Because in the past there has been compensation claims for work that has been done that the government has not budgeted for. So we do not want any government funding that was not budgeted for to be released to those people who are claiming compensation.