Wednesday, 4 February 2009 10:09 AM

Another Sorcery-Related Killing in PNG

A 40 year-old man has become the latest victim of sorcery-related killing in Papua New Guinea after he was brutally chopped to death by a group of men after being accused of practicing sorcery.

According to PNG's The National, the incident took place last week outside Goroka in the Eastern Highlands of PNG in a village in the Unggai-Bena district.
According to the report, the 'man was allegedly taken before a kangaroo court that comprised church pastors and village court officials, pronounced guilty and taken away to be chopped to death by a group of men armed with bush knives'.

'An eyewitness, who gathered the victim's mutilated remains and buried them, identified the deceased as John Ogono from Fayantina in Henganofi district' and 'had migrated to Kopafo village in Unggai-Bena district to live there'.

An eyewitness who spoke to The National said villagers who live between Goroka and Henganofi, 'alleged that the deceased and another person were sorcerers and went after them'.
According to the eyewitness, 10 youths including a village peace officer went to Kopafo village at around 4am last Friday and picked up Mr Ogono, his wife, his teenage son and an another man while they were asleep in their house, took them to a creek before releasing the wife, son and the other man. They then took the deceased to the village and interrogated him in a hastily convened court comprising four church pastors, a peace officer, and a village court chairman.
'At around 11am, the villagers led by a prominent village leader (named) interrogated Ogono, forcing him to admit to practicing sorcery'.

According to the eyewitness, who, according to The National, declined to be identified for fear of his life, the deceased's last words were: "In the eyes of the leaders, only God knows, I am innocent."

'Before he could finish, a young man standing close to him kicked him, and as he fell down, he was kicked in his jaws'.
"Youths all armed with bush knives dragged him away and chopped him to pieces," the eyewitness said.

According to the report, the killing shocked National Doctors Association president, Dr Kauve Pomat, who was in the village at the time, who said, "I was there at the hearing, but when he (deceased) was removed, I left. Being a doctor and a life-saver, I was emotionally bogged down and deeply saddened."
'He said he tried in vain to plead and negotiate with the villagers to spare the man's life' and did not witness the actual killing, but later heard about how it was done and was horrified.

Dr. Pomat managed to intervene as the same group was torturing a second man they had also accused of sorcery the day after.
The 25 year-old man 'was tortured and was slowly being put to death'. His tormentors were in the process of torturing him by 'pushing a red-hot iron rod into his body and started inflicting knife wounds' when Dr. Pomat intervened and appealed to them to stop.
'The attackers heeded his plea and released the accused, demanding K5,000 and two pigs from him'. (approx. SBD$ 14, 500)

'According to the eyewitness, the whole village was warned not to report the matter to police. But the eyewitness decided to speak out to reporters in Goroka yesterday'.

Meanwhile, according to the report, Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Chief Supt Teddy Tei, when contacted, said they had not received any report of such a killing, but would now launch an investigation.
He stated that it was a barbaric act and police will investigate it.

Sorcery-related killings is a big problem in PNG, especially in the highlands, and this latest report follows several others of the brutal beating or killing of people accused of practicing sorcery.

Following news of the killing being reported by The National, two legal organisations in the country pointed out that 'there is no effective enforcement of the Sorcery Act 1991, resulting in a good number of people brutally murdered in sorcery-related cases'.

According to The National, the Constitutional Law Reform Commission (CLRC) and the Public Prosecutor's office made this known following the brutal killing.

'CLRC chairman Joe Mek Teine and acting Public Prosecutor Jack Pambel separately said there was a need to immediately review and amend the Act', with Mr. Teine stating, ""Sorcery accusations and killings is a very serious issue facing our society, where innocent lives have been lost. Reviewing the Sorcery Act is on the agenda of my commission".

'He said sorcery-related killings were not serious in the colonial days, however, sorcery accusations and killings had become worse today' and that the situation warranted them to immediately make amendments to the Sorcery Act and implement it.