An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Inherent Violence

I have only just recently noticed that I received a comment on my "Highlands Highway Survivor" tale. Thanks for the comments Harold, but your subsequent link to your experiences while here in 2002 has now got me thinking about PNG being a violent and dangerous place.

I know that it is as I keep getting reminders from Aus Dept of Foreign Affairs, but for me I have never really seen this side of PNG. When someone a couple of months ago asked just this question on Lonely Planet's Thorntree I replied saying in general that it was fairly safe you just need to be vigilant.

I still think this is pretty well spot on advice, but I can't help now to think that I am particularly lucky to have missed and bypassed the undercurrent of violence that is inherent here. I mean if Harold just comes here for a couple of weeks of holiday and manages to see all sorts go down in Goroka, how come I have missed it.

Others keep telling me plenty of tales.

One of the volunteers on the April despatch who went down to Alotau, which is supposedly meant to be one of the safest towns in the country, saw a couple of kids rob a shop on his first day of work. The proceeding lynch mob that quickly assembled and beat the kids nearly to death, before a cop came and managed to somehow shoot and kill one will be a memory I am sure he won't forget.

Or closer to home, Helen (my mate from Salamaua) was out the front of another mates place in town and had her bilum snatched. She had left it on the ground while she tried to lock the gate and a passing raskol grabbed it and sprinted off. Helen called out to stop him and some guys grabbed him. They with the help of security guards from the nearby hotel, managed to again beat him close to death. Apparently later on the hotel staff were out at the spot hosing off the blood.

The security guards all carry cudgels around. Other AVIers in town have seen raskols beaten up while trying to flee from a shop.

The closest I have been to witnessing an incident like this was only the other day when I saw a guard take a swing at a running kid. The kid knew what would happen if he tried to keep going so immediately dropped to the ground. I was driving at the time and passed by before I could see if anything else happened.

There is no doubting that this is a violent place. Let's not beat around the bush. But most of the violence is directed at each other and I think you would be extremely unlucky for it to be directed at you. Saying that though it does happen. Testament is the Australian pilot who was shot dead during the year as he came out of getting money from an ATM machine in Hagen.

As my colleague Joy said the other day "PNG is like the ocean. It can be friendly and it can be rough".