31 Aug 2016

Reports of spiralling unrest in PNG's Hela

9:56 am on 31 August 2016

Reports from Papua New Guinea's Hela Province indicate an upsurge in inter-tribal fighting since last week.

Fresh from a temporary resolution to a significant landowner blockade of the major LNG Gas Project in Hela, local leaders fear a return to all-out tribal warfare of the kind which plunged the region into a crisis in 2002.

According to PNG loop, the Tari Pori District Authority Executive said there was a continuous spat of tribal fights all over the province, centred around the provincial capital, Tari.

David Takitako called on the National Government to declare a State of Emergency in the resource-rich province.

The Hela provincial police commander Michael Welly confirmed hostilities between two warring clans of the peri-urban Kikita 2 village.

A school burnt out as a result of tribal conflict in Papua New Guinea's Hela province.

The burnt out remains of a school as a result of tribal fighting in Hela in 2011 Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Superintendent Welly indicated fighting has spread from Tari to Koroba, where three deaths have been registered as local police units struggled to contain the unrest.

Referring to the latest skirmishes in Tari town, Superintendent Welly said the two clans were about to start "chopping each other" in public when police intervened by firing gunshots to disperse the groups.

He said the conflict forced businesses, government offices, the bank and Tari's airport, to close.

All flights to Tari have also been suspended as of yesterday.

Mr Takitako said Hela's current police strength was not adequate to meet the demands of maintaining law and order, saying additional police and military help was now required.

The Tari MP, Finance Minister James Marape, has voiced support for the call for a state of emergency to be declared.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs