The State of Emergency declared in the highlands of Papua New Guinea following repeated outbreaks of tribal fighting has been extended.
GV PAN: Over market in Mount Hagen.
SV: Soldiers walking through market.
CU: Police checking vehicles.
SV: Police checking drivers documents at desk.
SV: Police platoon on parade at briefing (3 shots)
SV: Villagers laying out money. (3 shots)
SV: Police patrol car along road and police searching cars. (5 shots)
SV: Woman holding baby and traffic along road (2 shots)
GV: Shops and people walking along road (3 shots)
Normally at this time of the day the market here at Mount Hagen is packed with people buying and selling vegetables and passing on the gossip from the villages down in the valley. But today the market place is virtually deserted. The people either can't get into town or else they're frightened to leave their villages. Under the State of Emergency proclaimed on July the 23rd road blocks have been set up throughout the highlands to restrict the movement of people. The carrying of weapons and liquor is banned and the police have been given sweeping powers to search and detain people. About one-thousand-six-hundred police including eight riot squads are now based in the highlands. In the past month they've arrested about one-thousand five hundred people.
The police campaign has been backed by the use of group punishment for the first time since independence. Recently two clans just outside Mount Hagen were fined a total of about forty-thousand dollars for fighting. Their long standing dispute had left eight people dead and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to crops and buildings. The tow clans were given three months to pay the fines, or else their leaders would be sent to jail. With coffee prices fairly good at present, the money was quickly raised, and one clan the Olgaulcunkers (phonetic) paid the fine within tow weeks. During the state of emergency the police are giving high priority to a blitz on motorists. Already several thousand people have been booked for traffic offences. This month a judge of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court, Mr Justice Pritchard, said the failure of the police in the past to effectively enforce traffic laws had led to most of the tribal fights in the western highlands during the past year. The judge cited several instances where fatal accidents had led to' pay back' killings which in turn had sparked off full scale tribal fights. The state of emergency generally had been well received by community leaders and especially by the women, who say they are tired of the fighting, the death and the destruction that has taken place in recent times. While the state of emergency has brought temporary peace to the highlands it's also brought problems to the business community. Big companies complain that because of uncertainty they've lost overseas orders; and smaller businessmen say their sales have dropped drastically. Tourism has been hard hit and tour operators have reported a drop in bookings. There's also some doubt still whether the famous Mount Hagen show due to be held next month, will take place.
REPORTER: DON HOOK
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The State of Emergency declared in the highlands of Papua New Guinea following repeated outbreaks of tribal fighting has been extended. The emergency, proclaimed after six months of fighting, left fifty people dead and hundreds wounded. It will remain in force until October the tenth. Don Hook of the Australian Broadcasting Commission flew to Mount Hagen in the troubled highlands for this report.