I strongly condemn the murder of this man and woman in Madang over sorcery-related accusations and retaliatory killings and call upon the Police to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.
I also call upon the Prime Minister of PNG and the Government to:
- Review its 2017 Budget and put more money into health care services, especially for rural PNG;
- Equip the Police to carry our community policing work in rural areas; and
- Revisit and enforce the laws relating to sorcery so we deter such barbaric killings.
I also also call upon the Governor and MPs of Madang to stand united with churches, communities and the police to provide leadership in putting ending cult practices, sorcery, murders and law and order break-down in the province.
One would think that burning and murder of witches and sorcerers is history but it’s only starting to flourish in PNG. From the Highlands to the remote rural coastal villages, the thirst for the blood of ‘posin or sanguma meri’ (sorceress) and ‘posin or sanguma man’ (sorcerer) is unquenchable.
In a country where gender-based violence is very high, women are extremely vulnerable to sorcery-related violence. The day someone accuses them of practicing sorcery or their husbands, brothers or family members are accused, they receive the death sentence. It’ll be only a matter of time and a death to occur for the execution to take place, most often like this woman in the photograph.
This latest murder of what seems like a man and his wife happened in my home province Madang, possibly in the Trans Gogol area. I hate to say this but Madang has quickly earned its reputation for crime, cult movements, brutal murders, rape and sorcery-related killings. What are our leaders doing about it?
Cold-blooded and barbaric killings of women either accused of practicing sorcery or simply for being the wife, daughter or a relative of an accused sorcerer is a national crisis. I understand some work has been done to criminalize sorcery-related murders to be punishable by death. How effective have these laws been enforced?
The Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in condemning such a murder stated that more education is required as PNG has a traditional and very superstitious society, especially in remote rural areas where majority of the people live.
Whilst I don’t disagree with the PM, the Government needs to address the root causes of the problems.
Provide health care services in the rural areas
Why do people murder women suspected of sorcery? Because someone died!
Could that person’s death have been prevented? Yes, if there are health services, medicines and drugs for treatment of diseases in rural areas.
When the rural health service is non-existent, underfunded and lack resources, the sick patient will have to travel to the provincial hospitals to seek medical help. This is often hindered by the lack of proper road infrastructure and money.
So the sick person reverts to traditional medicine, takes some fake amoxicillin capsules purchased from the Asian in the black market for K2 and when that doesn’t help, conclusion is drawn that the sickness is caused by sorcery. A ‘glasman’ or witch-finder is hired to find out who is responsible for making the person sick. The ‘glasman’ points out the sorcerer and tells a story of what he or she did to make the person sick. People believe what the glasman says. When the sick person dies, the sorcerer is murdered or if he or she escapes, the family members are killed. Most times, women are murdered because they are easy targets.
Proper Diagnosis of Diseases and Treatment
With the provision of better healthcare services in rural PNG, the health workers must be equipped with knowledge and resources to make proper diagnosis of diseases. District/LLG health centers and provincial hospitals are always overcrowded and aren’t adequately equipped for this. Sometimes, the health workers may send the patients home when they can’t find the causes of the disease. This conveys are a wrong message that the “doctor” wasn’t able to find a cure for the disease (or hospital medicine doesn’t work). This firmly supports their beliefs that the sickness is caused by sorcery.
Strengthen Law and Order in Rural Areas
Our people deserve to live in a safe and violence-free society. Police community policing need not be in urban centers only but established in every LLG and rural districts and equipped with adequate resources. Sorcery issues are sensitive and it can lead to bigger tribal fights. I believe community leaders can work better with police if they have a regular presence on the ground.
The Government can afford to employ law enforcement officers and deploy them to provide security for foreign-owned companies whilst its women are murdered.
Is the Government Doing Enough to End Sorcery-related Barbaric Murders of Women?
Whilst I don’t discount the good work that is being done to educate and create awareness to end sorcery-related violence against women, the problem will not stop if people continue to die from preventable diseases in remote rural areas.
The deeply-entrenched cultural beliefs and superstitions will take many years to eradicate. But if we have better health services in these rural areas, at least deaths will be prevented and the life of a woman accused of sorcery will be spared.
The 2017 National Budget has drastic cuts in the health budget. People in rural areas will be the ones to suffer most and continue to die.
The women of PNG accused of practicing sorcery or related to the accused will continue to pay the price for a Government that has failed to provide basic healthcare services to the majority of its citizens.
The women’s blood will continue to pay the price for a Government more than willing to provide security for foreign-owned companies whilst neglect to provide law-enforcement manpower and resources to maintain law and order to 85% of its citizens in the rural areas.