Two more die in Hela fighting to take total to 9 deaths in PNG election

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A police officer checking a vehicle transporting ballot boxes from Ialabu-Pangia
A police officer checking a vehicle transporting ballot boxes from Ialabu-Pangia to the Momei counting centre in Mendi in PNG's Southern Highlands as security was beefed up yesterday. Image: Peter Wari/The National

By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby

Fresh fighting among candidates’ supporters has left another two dead in Hela’s Margarima in Papua New Guinea’s general election.

This takes the death toll to nine in the province since fighting broke out on July 4 – and nationwide election-related deaths have topped 45.

Cars and trucks were set ablaze and houses razed in Lower Wage on Sunday.

Papua New Guinea Defence Force liaison officer Major Joshua Dorpar said fighting erupted again following the counting of election ballots for Margarima.

According to military sources in Margarima, the situation was still tense.

“Since the last fight two weeks ago, when the death toll was at seven, two more people have been killed, raising the death toll to nine. A couple of people are in hospital.

“Homes have been burnt down, vehicles destroyed, and we are working on restoring peace again, by talking to the of two groups that are fighting,” the sources said.

Lack of forces
Police commander Robin Bore said the fight started during polling on July 4 between incumbent Komo-Margarima MP Mannaseh Makiba’s (Pangu Pati) supporters and Independent Dr Benson Wakinda’s supporters at the Yambraka polling centre.

Bore said he did not have enough security forces to deal with the situation.

“We don’t have enough police manpower on the ground, especially armed/response units to attend to other law and order issues in the province, including the fighting in Margarima,” he said.

“We have one platoon of soldiers and Mobile Squad 12 but they will be concentrating on the counting and providing security for ballot boxes.

“Moreover, 40 regular members of Hela are on the roll over team led by Tari police station commander to provide polling security in nearby Highlands provinces.

“So, after completion of elections in Hela, we will look into those areas that require police help,” he added.

While election-related deaths reached 45 — as compiled by the media — many others went unreported or were unaccounted for.

Rebecca Kuku is a National reporter. Republished with permission.

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