Weasel words from the Tin Man: The Prime Minister’s response to the torture of a 6yr old girl.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, presides over a country where, according to Médecins Sans Frontières, the women are the most abused in the world outside of a conflict zone and where they “…endure some of the most extreme levels of violence in the world,” according to the Lowy Institute. (Reported in an article published in The National by journalist Grace Maribu.) Over this humanitarian crisis the Prime Minister expresses his “outrage” – but does little.

When the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea finally came out with a press statement on the recent torture of a six-year-old girl over four days at the hands of a baying, adult male mob, it was with ‘weasel words’.

Weasel words are words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that a specific or meaningful statement has been made, when instead only a vague or ambiguous claim has actually been communicated.

 

In the statement, he called for “Community and Church action…,” rather than his own; he condemned the attack and the attackers (whom he called a few names) and thanked the people (not him) that took decisive action to save the small girl.

He also condemned the practise of Sanguma, praised Christianity and the good Samaritans that helped save the girl and promised to keep doing what he’s been doing – working with the churches and communities as well as the RPNGC “…to end these false beliefs and to protect the lives of all Papua New Guineans.”

But why would he continue doing what he’s doing when, in the NCD (Port Moresby and surrounds) only two convictions have resulted from the 414 cases handled by the Family Sexual Violence Action Committee Secretariat between 2016 and 2017? This is in spite of legislation enacted in 2013 that was meant to protect women and girls against violence? (The Family Protection Act)

Indeed, since 2013, violence has just escalated both generally – gender-based violence (ie men beating and killing women) – and specifically – accusation-based violence (involving supposed witches) even though 2013 not only saw this legislation enacted but also the PNG Sorcery Act repealed.

The crowd watched as they burned, young mother Kepari Leniata alive.

It’s no coincidence that this was also the year that the mother of the tortured child, Kepari Leniata was herself tortured and burned alive as a witch. The incidents are linked.

 

Clearly, the response was inadequate.

There’s absolutely no point in providing a recipe if there are neither the requisite cooks nor the ingredients available to bake a cake (ie – to effect an outcome). Peter O’Neill either knew that or should have.

In spite of the Prime Ministers expressed condemnation at that time, the perpetrators of the murder of Kepari have never been brought to justice – had they been perhaps this little girl would not now be in bandages from her neck to her ankles. Violence against women is a low-risk crime in Papua New Guinea. Whose fault is that?

I mean, if the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome then Peter O’Neill must be mad – but I don’t think so.

In PNG, it is men who win elections for their candidates and although women can vote, they usually vote as their menfolk dictate. A consummate politician, Peter O’Neill knows that. The right to beat women is enshrined in the psyche of many PNG men, especially in the Highlands, where the Prime Minister’s constituency is located. Clearly, it is not good politics to antagonise one’s electoral base.

If we were in that mythical land of Oz, Peter O’Neill wouldn’t be the character without a brain: the Scarecrow, – his lukewarm response is patently politically shrewd. No, he’d be the Tin Man: the one without a heart.

 

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A petition to demand that the PNG Gov addresses violence against women

Sign the petition:  Enough was enough long ago: when the violence is extended to include little girls of six-years-old being tortured by groups of men, we cannot let this continue and call ourselves human.

 

She is six years old – accused of ‘sanguma, burned with hot irons by groups of adult men

“We the Papua New Guinea Community and the International Community are united in this call to action. We demand the PNG Government takes immediate and sustained action to prevent and protect women and children from torture, murder and all acts of violence and human rights abuses.

The latest victim is just six (6) years old. Last week in PNG, in an act of extreme depravity, a group of men burned her with hot metal to persuade her to confess to practising witchcraft – she was lucky, she was rescued before she was murdered.

Not so lucky was her mother Kepari Leniata, a name you may remember. Five years ago, a group of vengeful men tortured this young mother; including unspeakable acts of sexual violence. When they had finished torturing Kepari, they threw her on a pile of tyres and burned her alive. Watched by a crowd with camera phones; no one helped her. Her known assailants were never brought to justice and, since then, the extreme violence against women in PNG has only escalated with perpetrators rarely, if ever, prosecuted.

In PNG, violence against women is a low‐risk, and largely tolerated crime. Will PNG now extend its tolerance to the torture of a child? The PNG government responds to each new atrocity against females (and they are sustained and many) with another piece of legislation that’s never used or the adoption of a combatting strategy never implemented.

THE LAW DEMANDS THESE CRIMINALS BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE – YET THEY NEVER ARE. THIS HAS TO CHANGE.

In 2018, PNG will host APEC. Australia is providing security and other aid for the meeting – with PNG just over 3 kilometres from Australia at its closest point, can Australia afford to ignore the atrocities against women and now children right on their doorstep and maintain ‘business as usual’? Can the other APEC countries?

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Please sign our petition – let the PNG government know that when women and children are allowed to be tortured and burned alive with impunity, it is NOT business as usual – it’s a national emergency.”

  • We call on the PNG Government to immediately act upon the Family Protection Act and the Lukautim Pikinini Act to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the recent torture of the young girl from Enga Province.
  • We call upon the PNG Government to increase funding to support the Taskforce against sorcery accusations and gendered based violence.
  • We call upon the PNG Government to provide increased funding to support civil groups addressing Accusation Based Violence and Gendered Based Violence in PNG society.

We, the undersigned demand immediate action from the PNG government to prevent and protect women and children from torture, murder and all acts of violence and human rights abuses.”

Click here to sign.


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The rage within

By PNG Echo

Just one of 800
Just one of 800

It is not only the 800 languages or the ecological diversity that makes PNG unique (although that too): it is also the rage of young PNG men, manifest and misdirected in extreme forms of physical and verbal violence.

And it’s not just me that’s noticed.

Journalist, Jo Chandler, in an article she wrote following the public burning alive of Kepari Leniata in 2013 said:

Continue reading The rage within

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…then the crowd watched as they burned her alive.

By PNG Echo

It’s funny what gets etched into memory and what gets forgotten – I remember that today, February 6, is the birthday of the now adult twin boys of my childhood friend, whom I have not seen for decades.

They watched as she burned
They watched as she burned

Today is also the anniversary of the brutal slaying of Kepari Leniata – and I had forgotten.

Yet it was just one short year ago that this young mother, from Papua New Guinea was accused of witchcraft and publicly burned alive.

How she suffered is unimaginable.

After many hours of torture, with the perpetrators committing unspeakable acts of sexual violence on the young woman, she was tethered by her hands and her feet to planks of wood and carried to a public place where she was thrown on a rubbish tip and set alight.

It happened in the Western Highlands town of Mt. Hagen.

The assembled public watched.  They did nothing.  No one lifted a finger to help, even though some spectators with ringside seats were purportedly police officers.

All this they captured on the cameras of their smart phones.

How could they?

Continue reading …then the crowd watched as they burned her alive.

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