Many have died, many more are fleeing their homes, and only a few are making the bold stand to expose the actual situation on ground.
Over the weekend, Rev Wai Tege, Bishop of United Church in Hela, sat with Loop PNG to expose the grim situation.
He said very soon, Hela will be a province controlled by “he who has a gun”.
“Hela has roughly 300 thousand people. About 50 – 60 percent of that is male, and each of them own a gun. I’m not talking about home-made guns, these are high powered guns,” he said.
Bishop Wai says the situation in Hela has come to a point where you feel safe only if you own a gun.
“There is no command, no law and order, no police. So people have to defend themselves. When they receive their royalty money, first thing on their mind is buying a gun,” he added.
This widespread tribal fight has affected all services in the area.
The bishop, who is also the deputy chairman of Hela Council of Churches, says schools, health facilities, churches and even police stations have been forced to close down.
From his church run services:
- 11 primary schools – 4 closed down, 1 school – 50 percent burnt down
- 1 secondary school
- 50,000 church members in the area – all 17 churches closed and 2 pastors shot dead
- 15 health facilities – 4 health centres closed
“Everyone is running away. People have become refugees in their own land. I can’t do my work here now because my congregation has fled,” said Bishop.
To date, a year has passed since the gun amnesty in Tari town, where locals in possession of illegal firearms were asked to surrender.
Measures to address this problem include establishing a hotline and a reward of K5 thousand for anyone who reports any person in possession of an illegal firearm.
The people are already fed up and are calling on the intervention of the government and tougher gun laws to be passed.