16/03/2014 00:54

Murder of DWU student Nigel Laki and the settlement issue

By Fr Giorgio Licini
Catholic Reporter PNG

The brutal murder of DWU student Nigel Laki on Friday afternoon in the streets of Madang is something with the power of shocking the community and shaking the nation. First hour rumors blame settlement youth; but police are still investigating and some say the outcome could also be different. University President Fr Jan Czuba SVD stated today that alcohol was not stranger.

The shock comes as another young promising life is lost to the family and to the community for no understandable and acceptable reason. Schoolmates and friends grieve a loss that is forever. Leaders and authorities scramble in trying to contain immediate anger and emotions just to avoid an eye for an eye - tooth for tooth retribution. PNG is a Christian Country and Divine Word a Christian University. Cannot go down that path!

The nation, however, needs to feel shaken. Settlements exist in all developing countries and at times even in first world countries. They are NOT places full of rascals! Rather teachers, bank employees, policemen and other people belonging to the so-called working class live in settlements. They simply cannot afford purchasing, building or renting a house. Any current tertiary student is a potential settlement dweller in a few years time.

The problem is much wider. It relates to urbanization because of lack of development, facilities and amenities in rural areas; it is aggravated by tribal fights and sorcery persecution that force people out of their remote, but somehow agriculturally prosperous villages in the Highlands; it becomes hell when a city does not find its own Powes Parkop providing scholarships to school drop outs and casual job opportunities to those who can just room the streets.

Settlements in a city full of students like Madang are indeed a hazard. Rausim ol! (evict them!) becomes the mantra of the victims’ friends exasperated by too many incidents  and injuries. But where are you going to put people? The alternatives can only be realistic, viable, and acceptable. When people cannot go back to their village or are second generation in the city, they can only put up a new settlement somewhere a couple of miles away.

Consider instead the total closing down and SP Brewery and sale of beer in the country. There will still be alcoholism, but not at this intolerable level! Think of a serious housing program for PNG urban areas! Churches, NGOs and Universities, reserve a yearly budget for assistance to nearby settler dwellers, especially school fees, medical assistance, a Christmas gift! Invite those jobless and unskilled boys outside your gate to help in maintenance works when needed in your compound!

Since many of us have lived or live in settlement areas, we know that their disadvantaged boys can either be our worst enemies or our best friends…  We know that it all depends on the way we shake hands with them and extend a bit of understanding and help. (15 March 2014)