27 Oct 2022

Island residents living in fear of further violence following massacre

1:01 pm on 27 October 2022
Many people on Kiriwina Island were injured in the violence

Violence on Kiriwina Island has left 22 dead Photo: RNZ Pacific/Scott Waide

A journalist says people are living in fear after the unexpected outbreak of violence on a Papua New Guinea island this week.

Hasty burials have taken place of some of the victims due to their being no morgue at the community health centre.

The clash between two groups resulted in the deaths of 22 people on Monday. Initially it was feared that 30 people had died on Kiriwina Island in the remote Trobriand archipelago. Many more were injured.

Post-Courier senior journalist Gorethy Kenneth said community members are scared, hiding in their homes in fear of more retaliation.

She said the incident is unexpected and unheard of for Kiriwina Island.

"I mean for dozens of men to die in a fight like that it's obviously a massacre in Kiriwina, in Alotau they are a peace-loving people, that island is actually known as an island of love."

A contingent of 10 police from the national headquarters in Papua New Guinea have arrived on Kiriwina Island.

The island is north-east of Port Moresby, around a one-hour flight to Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay province and then a boat ride away.

Violence on Kiriwina Island has left many dead

Many people on Kiriwina Island were injured in the violence Photo: RNZ Pacific/Scott Waide

Douglas Tomuriesa, the member for Kiriwina-Goodenough, told EMTV the violence wasn't a tribal conflict but a fight between two villages that resulted from a violent football match five weeks ago.

He said he attempted to sort out the issue caused by that game by conducting a traditional peace ceremony but was unsuccessful.

The situation was still very tense on the island, Tomuriesa said.

"It is quiet, very tense because the people have taken the dead and have taken them home to bury. So we are hoping that police will come and do their investigation properly and arrest the perpetrators and what is important is to get to the bottom of the issue and deal with the perpetrators and arrest them," he said.

RNZ Pacific's PNG correspondent Scott Waide told Pacific Waves a 13-year-old boy was among the dead and several women were injured.

Kiriwina Island area manager Nelson Tauyuwada said in the lead-up to the massacre, crops were damaged, threatening livelihoods.

There were many layers to the rivalry, including political division, he said.

However, Tomuriesa has insisted the massacre was not politically motivated.

Kabwaku United Church Committee member David Mudagada has been trying to de-escalate the situation as fears of further retaliation surface.

The UN's PNG represenativtive says the recent violence in PNG is not part of the country's culture but is due to tensions and conflicts.

During the UN's 77th anniversary celebrations in Port Moresby this week, Marielle Sanders said the violence experienced today is not normal.

The Post-Courier quotes her as saying that having grown up in PNG she would argue that is "not normal, it is coming from somewhere else" adding that it may be down to the transition from traditional life to modernity.