New woman MP in PNG wants action to curb violence in her district

New Rai Coast Open MP Kessy Sawang
Restoring law and order on the Rai Coast was a key part of new MP Kessy Sawang's election campaign and she says beefed up police services are needed for a start. Image: RNZ

RNZ Pacific

The new MP for Rai Coast Open in Papua New Guinea’s Madang Province, Kessy Sawang, wants immediate action to curb violence that has been occurring in her district for years.

Sawang was one of two women to win seats in the just finished national election — the first such victories in a decade.

The Rai Coast has been recently marred by violence.

There are reports a gang operating there has killed eight villagers and raped 10 schoolgirls.

Sawang said restoring law and order was a key part of her campaign and this had to start with beefed up police services.

“This has been going on for more than a decade. The thing is that past leaders have just turned a blind eye to that and it’s one of the biggest issues I have,” she said.

“I have only two policemen in my district, there are no police stations — there is no rural lock up, there is no police housing. Address those decade-old issues.”

Committed to local community
Being committed to the local community is the secret of success for newly elected Sawang.

The other woman elected was Rufina Peter, who is now Governor of Central Province.

Sawang said she had been striving to win the seat for seven years, missing out in 2017, but years of community involvement eventually paid off.

Rai Coast Open MP Kessy Sawang
Rai Coast Open MP Kessy Sawang … “I have been on the ground, I do water supply projects, I engage in community work.” Image: PNG govt

“It’s remaining relevant with my people. Like I have been with the people, I have been on the ground, I do water supply projects, I engage in community work,” she said.

“All these kinds of things help me.”

Although only two women were voted into Parliament, 142 contested the election — slightly down on 2017.

Sawang said she used the example of New Zealand, one of the least corrupt countries in the world and led by a female prime minister, in her efforts on the campaign trail to win people over.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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