Nine month ordained priest and catechist murdered in the Goilala mountains.
It took one week to confirm the death of Fr Gerry Inao and several other victims of a pay-back killing spree in the Goilala mountains of the PNG Central province last week.
By Fr Brian Cahill MSC
I received a report by telephone on Wednesday 7th May at around 10.00am in the morning from our Guarimeipa primary school Head Teacher, John Hoviai that Fr Gerry Inao and the communion minister, Benedict were shot dead at Kamulai on the preceeding Sunday (4th May). John had walked down from Guarimeipa to Zania were there is a hot-spot for Digicel mobile reception. The report was brief and sketchy: Fr Gerry's body was still on the ground at Kamulai where they shot him, as was Benedict's whom they had cut to pieces.
Fr Gerry, a native of the area and a member of the Kunimeipa tribe, in his early forties and ordained a priest only on 16 August 2013, had been shot through the heart at close range. Both deaths were pay-back killings.
This cycle of pay-back killings has been going on in the Kunimeipa area for more than four years now. Reports coming into the main Goilala government station of Tapini and elsewhere since Fr Gerry's death were that seven others have been killed since Sunday.
The police and government have been slow to address this law and order problem, however this last lot of killings prompted them to act, and a police contingent was mobilised to move to Kamulai by helicopter as soon as possible. The District Adminstrator for Goilala, Mr Jimmy Aniau kindly arranged for myself and the Vicar General of the diocese of Bereina, Fr Paul Guy, to travel up with the police to confirm whether or not Fr Gerry's body had been buried, and to see to this matter if not, according due dignity.
Fr Paul Guy and myself were advised late on Thursday evening (8th May) of the helicopter movement scheduled for the next day at Bereina. So we travelled to Bereina the same night departing our Missionaries of the Sacred Heart headquarters in Gordons (Port Moresby) at around 3.30am to get there by first light when we were told the helicopters were arriving to ferry police and ourselves up to Olivi and Kamulai.
Two helicopters arrived at Bereina around 8.00am. Fr Paul Guy and myself travelled to Olivi on the first flight with the police photographer, in
search of Fr Gerry's body. We eventually found Olivi, nestled behind Mt
Yule and landed. Straight away we were greeted by the villagers who told us that Fr Gerry's body had been buried the day before inside the Olivi church. They had carried the body from near Kamulai where it had been left on the ground and waited with it at Olivi until they couldn't wait any longer as it needed to be buried due to the state of decomposition. They had lovingly buried him inside the church where he had celebrated Easter with them.
Fr Paul Guy proceeded to bless the grave, and together with the local villagers gathered, recited prayers for the dead over the grave. Afterwards the catechist gave the police a thorough report on what had happened and we listened on. We thanked the people for what they had done and assured them that it was proper that they had buried Fr Gerry's body here in this place amongst the people he loved and served so well as a priest. We told them that the Bishop would be pleased to know this as well as Fr Gerry's family. We left Olivi after about one hour on the ground.
We then went on to Kamulai Catholic Mission, where the police were being dropped off to begin their one month police operation throughout the upper and lower Kunimeipa. The mission is over grown and unkept. The buildings have been entered into by outsiders and are run-down. It was sad to see Kamulai in this state, given what it was like just ten years ago. After about 30 minutes on the ground the helicopter returned, and Fr Paul and myself got on to return to Bereina.