PNG still struggling with sorcery related killings

Meri, a victim of sorcery-related violence. Photo by Vlad Sokhin.
23 April 2014
Meri, a victim of sorcery-related violence. Photo by Vlad Sokhin.

Papua New Guinea is still struggling to stop sorcery related killings, says an expert from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

And more needs to be done by the PNG state, particularly in terms of policiing and justice, if the problem is to be overcome.

The warning comes in the wake of the latest killings in PNG, where a 500-man strong ‘witch hunt’ left at least six people, including two children, dead.

It is the worst attack in a year.

But Associate Professor Richard Eves, from the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Project, says that unfortunately events like the latest killings are all too common.

“I was in the PNG Highlands in December last year and I heard a report following the death of a politician in Chimbu where 30 people were killed,” he told ABC Radio Australia.

“There’s not been much movement in terms of prosecution or even awareness of the event. So it is very shocking.”

Associate Professor Eves, who co-convened a major conference on the topic at ANU last year, said that the practice had a long history in PNG, though recent trends highlighted its changing nature.

These included brutal torture and the deaths of many people.

He added that the PNG state needed to do more to address the issue, including following up on arrests with proper trials and prosecution.

“For example in the case last year of Kapari Leniata who was burnt alive in Mount Hagan, 100 people were arrested.

“But nobody has been tried yet, there's been no prosecution.

“And I think that will happen in the case of Madang; 180 people have been arrested, but we'll see whether there'll actually be any prosecution.

“There's been a real failure by the state to follow through on some of these arrests in a number of situations. It doesn't really help, it basically means people are acting with impunity.”  

Listen to Associate Professor Richard Eve’s full interview at the ABC Radio Australia website.

Listen to and download podcasts from the 'Sorcery and witchcraft-related killings in Melanesia' conference at our podcasts page

Updated:  11 October, 2013/Responsible Officer:  Web Communications Coordinator/Page Contact:  Web Communications Coordinator