ONE person is dead and many others seriously wounded in a fight in Madang between the local Bogia people and villagers from volcano-stricken
“The situation could get out of hand,” Madang police commander Supt Anthony Wagambie Jr said yesterday, adding that both sides were heavily armed.
Wagambie said depending on assessment reports today, he might recommend for Bogia to be declared “a fighting zone” because he did not have the manpower.
Ongoing tensions between Bogia landowners and islanders, who had been in care centres on the mainland since the Manam eruption in 2000, had been simmering for several years over land rights for gardening, hunting and building of permanent homes.
The latest clash took place last Saturday between islanders at the Asarumba care centre and locals near the
It erupted after six people attempted to knife a village councillor, who escaped and ran into a nearby trade store but, as fighting raged, an islander from the Sinbene area was killed and many others severely wounded, a local councillor said.
Wagambie said according to reports received, the warring factions possessed high-powered weapons and explosive devises, adding that “nine bomb blasts” were heard at the height of the confrontation last weekend, NBC national radio quoted him last night as saying.
“There is a build-up of arms on both sides and the situation could flare up,” he said.
However, while the situation was tense, police mobile squads 13 and 14 members from Lae and other local officers were on the ground to ensure the situation did not spill further.
Governor Sir Arnold Amet, who had been kept abreast of developments, said yesterday the Madang government could not do much because the care centres were under national government control.
However, his government was committed to ensuring that the welfare of the people was catered for.
Sir Arnold said it was in everybody’s interest to now discuss the future of Manam islanders at the three Bogia care centres.
He said given adequate funding from Waigani, his government would take the lead in finding a lasting solution to the islanders’ dilemma.
A village councillor at one of the care centres said clashes like last Friday’s would not have occurred if the government had permanently resettled them within the six months, as promised, after they were displaced by the volcanic eruption.
He said the islanders could not go back to the island because it was unsafe.
“The government must do something now as many clashes have erupted because we have been neglected for too long.”
More than 15,000 islanders had settled at the care centres at Bom, Asarumba and Posdem in Bogia for the past 10 years, waiting for the government’s promise to permanently resettle them elsewhere.