Time to introduce you to the role of myth and superstition in communities here. I've not been exposed to much myself, but I've heard people talk about the existence of mermaids in Bougainville, a tribe of nomadic dwarfs that roam along the base of the Buka cliffs, a GIANT octopus that lives in an underwater cave, and one fellow asked me if I could visit his village and let him know if the diamond on the head of a local snake was worth anything (apparently it hides in a cave and he will take me to see it).
While the myths by and large are harmless, the superstitions held by people here need to be taken very seriously. During a recent survey of health professionals I was told that sometimes people refuse to seek treatment because they believe they are cursed. Such is the strength of these beliefs that those accused of cursing people, or sorcery, are attacked and often killed. See below.
Sorcery killings on rise
By ROBERT PALME
MORE than 50 people have been wilfully murdered, some in gruesome fashion, for allegedly practising sorcery in two Highlands provinces last year.
Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Teddy Tei said more than 30 people were reportedly killed in the province while Chimbu police commander Joseph Tondop confirmed more than 20 cases.
However, the two men said they believed there to be more cases that had not been reported to police.
Mr Tei, in condemning these brutal killings, said in some cases people suspected of sorcery were tied and burnt alive while others were simply killed in front of others.
The commanders made these revelations when commenting on the death of a Chimbu man at the Goroka Base Hospital on Christmas Day from injuries sustained after he was attacked by relatives of a person who accused him of sorcery and attacked him on December 18 at Namaro coffee plantation in the Bena area of the province.
Mr Tei said the police were doing a lot of awareness on killing of innocent people and or repercussions on sorcery and murder but it seemed to have no effect on the people as the crime continued without a glimmer of change in the attitude of people.
“I want the people of Eastern Highlands to know that sorcery in itself is a crime but it is hard to prove in court, but taking the law into their own hands does not make the killers free,” Mr Tei said.
He said many of the sorcery suspects killed were innocent people.
Mr Tei said: “I condemn the actions and attitudes of people taking the law into their own hands when addressing alleged sorcery cases.”
Mr Tondop said sorcery was hard to address as it was alleged to follow bloodlines and practised against relatives and the retaliatory killings involved their immediate relatives. HE cited the death of former Chimbu administrator Joseph Bal as allegedly related to sorcery and an old man was killed and houses destroyed by relatives which saw to the arrest of suspects in that killing.
Mr Tondop also said his men were carrying out awareness but to no effect and called on the community leaders to help police and discourage sorcery related killings.
In the Western Highlands a young girl was set alight on Wednesday morning by suspects at the Kerebug rubbish dump and police are still investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, in other police news, Eastern Highlands police are investigating the attempted murder of a son of a policeman on Monday afternoon.
Mr Tei also raised concern that the cultivation of marijuana was on the rise in the province and called on the villagers to resort to making an honest living.
Mr Tei said the land used for cultivation of the illicit drug should be used to produce fruits and vegetables and sold instead of something that will land them into trouble.
For more: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7825511.stm