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MURDER IN MADANG

It all happened at Five Mile.

‘Five Mile’ is, amazingly, five miles frum Madang on the road up to the Highlands, a sprawling slum along both sides of the road, a fly-blown rubbish-tip Hilton; tents, shacks, muck, mums and children. People had been flooding down the mountain for years in search of work. Now they reached critical mass, hundred and hundreds of disenfranchised youth, all angry – held in check by an increasingly recalcitrant local government who wouldn’t give an inch.

For the good citizens of Madang life was suffering; Madang had a liquor ban on weekends because of constant fights caused by settler harassment, pick-pocketing, bag snatching, shop lifting and looting. The landowners want their town cleaned up.

Madang fears violence during mass squatter eviction

Posted at 21:19 on 07 March, 2003 UTC

Residents and businesses in Madang in Papua New Guinea are on the alert for possible violence caused by the planned eviction of 10-thousand squatters in the township. The Post Courier newspaper reports that the eviction exercise by the Madang Provincial government will go ahead on despite requests by the Prime Minister that it be postponed. The Madang Governor James Yali says squatters have until Sunday to leave voluntarily or face forced eviction. A strong police force is to be involved in the operations with a Mobile Squad from Goroka already in Madang and a squad from Lae to arrive later.

The Madang Chamber of Commerce has criticised the eviction saying that it is poorly planned and will lead to violence. It says many businesses will suffer because the majority of their workers come from the settlements. A spokesperson for the provincial government says any problems arising from the eviction will be solve later.

The Madang eviction exercise will the biggest one carried out in Papua New Guinea.

rmz1.com

Governor says evictions of settlers in Madang to continue

Posted at 22:41 on 10 March, 2003 UTC

The Governor of Papua New Guinea’s Madang province says he is still planning to evict illegal settlers from the region, despite public criticism.

James Yali says a group has been given 14 days to leave as part of what he says will be a year long eviction exercise.

Mr Yali says this is contrary to media reports which said that up to 10-thousand settlers were to be evicted at the weekend, which he says caused undue fear and panic. The Madang governor is also disputing reports saying the settlers last week obtained a court stay on their eviction. Mr Yali says the court order applied only to those who come from the Southern Highlands and that the eviction of other illegal settlers will proceed. Mr Yali says his government is currently identifying those who are genuine settlers and he says he will ask the national government to provide land for them.

“what we are doing is trying to identify those who are productive members of our community and those who are just squatting…. people who have been self employed and who are also employed by business houses in Madang, and also those who have been living three or four generations in Madang. We would obtain state land and we would of course settle these people in these state lands”

Mr Yali says he is appealing the court stay for the Southern Highlanders.

Madang Government loses battle to force settler out

Posted at 03:48 on 17 March, 2003 UTC

The Madang Provincial government in Papua New Guinea has been unsuccessful in its attempt to set aside court orders that stopped its forceful eviction of illegal settlers. The National Court in Goroka rejected the application by the Provincial Government and has instead ordered the parties to meet within the next two weeks to sort out a list of genuine settelrs. The decision has been seen as a victory by the settlers, but adds fuel to an already tense situation in the township, where villagers and landowners support the evictions.

PNG villgers in Madang seek removal of illegal settlers

Posted at 21:07 on 21 March, 2003 UTC

More than 6-thousand village people from Madang have petitioned the Papua New Guinea government to remove all illegal settlements in the town. The villagers marched from Balasigo market to the provincial government office where they warned that if the government did not respond within seven days, they would mobilise and remove the settlements. Governor James Yali accepted the petition that was addressed to Prime minister Sir Michael Somare and he assured the villagers that the National Executive Council will consider the demands. Mr Yali says outsiders living in Madang must respect locals and their customs.

Ambenob LLG Councilor Seamus Takei told 6,000 protesters that if the government can not remove illegal settlements, then the landowners will. He has given an ultimatum of seven days.

This issue should not have been allowed to deteriorate to the stage where landowners are now threatening to take the law into their own hands. The tension that has been created and allowed to fester is already affecting the lives of all the people residing in the town.

*

At this precise point in time, blissfully unaware, Mr. Dogster set off on a jolly day tour inland to somewhere unimportant.

The cruise was over. He was staying at Zapeeda’s mega-resort in Madang, using Zapeeda’s mega-guide – indeed he was traveling in the actual Zapeedamobile. He felt very smart. The government crest on the side of his door looked very regal.

.

My P.N.G. Bongo was a proud man, neither deferential nor shy; one of his many jobs was to escort the rare tourist around town. He had flawless English and a great attitude. We were a team. I have nothing bad to say about him. After all, he saved my life.

It happened at Five Mile.

We were bowling along the North Coast Highway, en route to nowhere much. Bongo and Dog were making man talk. He knew the rules.

‘O.K. Bongo,’ Dog said, looking around, ‘I don’t see anyone else in this car…’

His brow furrowed.

‘So it looks like just you and me.’

What was the white man talking about?

‘So you can relax, Bongo. You are a man, I am a man – same, same, O.K.? No ‘Sir’, no suck up, O.K.?’

He thought for a moment.

‘O.K.’

Then he laughed.

‘Let’s go, dog!’ he shouted and put his foot down. The North Coast Highway and the world lay in front us.

*

‘Tell me about Zapeeder.’

*

Just five miles from Madang the road curves, crosses a river and changes its name. From now on we were traveling on the Ramu Highway. Not for long.

‘What’s that down there, Bongo?’

‘Five mile,’ he said and started to slow. Soon we were in the midst of the squatters town. A large group of men, sixty, seventy were gathered and, as our car drove closer moved across the road. Someone shouted. I saw arms pointing.

‘Windows up!’ hissed Bongo and swung the wheel. Behind us the crowd was swarming towards us. He made it most of the way around before the crowd were upon us. Men with white circles painted round their eyes jumped in front of the car. One smashed down on the bonnet with his machete.

‘Lock your door,’ Bongo hissed.

Memory is a strange and selective thing. When next my consciousness returns we are facing the way we came, pointing to Madang. The vehicle is surrounded on three sides by a mob of wild men armed with machetes, faces painted up for war. They were about to march on Madang intent on bringing down the government.

Dog was sitting in the front seat of Zapeeder’s car. The one with the attractive government crest on the side.

Machete man walked round to my side. Staring straight at me he started at the headlights and smashed into everything he saw. What was most disconcerting was the slow, methodical way he attacked the car. Closer. Whack! on the fender. Whack! along the bonnet. Closer. Whack at the rear view mirror. Looking at me. I wasn’t taking photos. The noises from outside were getting angrier. I can’t remember doing anything but sit and watch the man with the machete. The next strike would be at my window. Shouting. These white circles. Cheeks smeared. Angry eyes. Bongo very still.

Crash! The machete smashed into my window.

He’s kept the car in gear all this time, Bongo grabs a chance. For a moment there is no one in front of us. Vrr-r-r-r-om, motors on.

At the sound of the engine the crowd goes beserk.

Smash! Something smashes through the back window. Smash! Glass shatters at my side. Crash! A rock hits the bonnet. Vr-r-r-ack! A machete hacks at my door.

Boof! Every window in the car is smashed by rocks. I glimpse a painted man running towards the car with a boulder held high above his head. Bash! Into the windscreen, almost caving it in. My side, bash. Vrr-r-r-o-o-opmp. I’m doubled over with my arms over my head whispering sweet-fuck, jeeses god, oh, fuck.

With a screech from the brakes and the bandits we’re gone. I look back to see a hundred men running along the road after us. We drive. We get the hell out of there.

‘Are you O.K.?’ ‘Are you O.K.?’

We didn’t talk again till we got to the police station.

‘They would have killed us,’ Bongo said seriously over a beer later.

‘What did we do?’

‘They were trying to kill the government car.’

I was too stupid to get scared till later. Then I got scared.

*

That was the moment I decided not to go back. I thought I was pushing my luck.

*

 

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