Violence and Tragedy here in PNG

As you would have found out, Port Moresby is classified as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. And yes, POM does have its issues, and simple things like the banning of buai sellers may just increase crime in the city (that’s a post for another day).

I have always tried to keep a balanced viewpoint on PNG, and it would be remiss of me to not blog about some of the bad shit that does happen here, just as it happens everywhere else in the world.

What I am about to blog about are true stories that have affected me, or that I have been involved in. You do need to take into account that I am pretty happy living here, and that what is fine for me, may not be for you. It is also important to remember, that acts of violence can be significantly attributed to poverty, lack of social welfare, poor wages, lack of education, and of course the tribal nature that is PNG. Most acts of violence do not affect expatriates, unless you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have removed some of the detail out, as I don’t want some of this to adversely affect people’s viewpoints, nor endanger Papua New Guineas tourism, or locations.

On Violence:

Unfortunately, myself and my family were in a very safe area, when a group of 20 plus men ran into the area chasing another man. They were picking up bricks, rocks, sticks and were carrying bush knives (machetes), and were attacking the man that they were chasing. They ran between myself and my 2 older children, and my wife with the youngest. I shielded the older kids, whilst my wife was able to move away to a safer spot as they proceeded to butcher the man they were chasing. During the attack, they grabbed a random young 11 year old boy who was an innocent, and proceeded to bash him. Grown men beating a young boy, it was horrific.
The attack lasted mere minutes, and they raced off (now a group of 30 odd) dragging the man and slicing him with the bush knives.
Whilst the attack was happening, I assessed, made sure my family was safe, and didn’t get involved. Then, once it had finished, I helped the other expat that was there and “muscled” up to try and intimidate them not to come back. We assisted the boy who had been beaten, who was then taken off to get help.

It was a pretty horrible thing to witness, and at one stage my wife was less than 2 meters away from a local guy yelling “kill him, kill him” and we were basically right amongst the violence.

It is important to understand, that the violence was a payback, and the man getting butchered had tried to cut off the arm of another man the night before. And surprisingly, he actually survived the attack, although I haven’t heard if he still lives now. The child being attacked was something I will never forget, not only was it cowardly, but as he had nothing to do with the other man, it was completely unnecessary.

I will never forget the sight of those men cutting and slicing the other man – it will stay with me forever. I will never forget the sight of grown men bashing an innocent child – it will stay with me forever.

This is not the Papua New Guinea that I love.

On Tragedy:

On Saturday, I was driving here in Port Moresby. I had been following a ute (single cab truck) that had 2 children in the tray. This is a common sight in PNG and is actually legal… The kids in the ute were tossing things like buai husks off the back of the ute, so I decided to pass them. After passing them, the ute driver decided that he was going to pass me back, and at about 110 km/hr and right beside me (I wasn’t going that fast) he realized that some stupid idiot had stopped in their lane. The driver locked his brakes up and started fish tailing, Missing me by centimeters, the ute then flipped on to its roof throwing the children off the back…

I slowed down, but seeing the crowd and knowing I was going to be in big shit (even though I did nothing) I decided to keep traveling… I rang one of my team to try and get hold of emergency services, which he couldn’t get through to.

There is nothing I could do, but I feel responsible. I could have helped, but if I had stopped, the crowd could have easily turned on me.

The sight of that ute and those children getting thrown out of it, is just cutting me up. I can’t sleep without seeing those kids. I’m frustrated, and angry. It’s just bloody tragic, and so wrong. I suspect that the children could never survive the accident, and I am racked with guilt and sadness…

Don’t let things like this stop you from coming here, just remember that this can happen anywhere. And although what we have seen was horrific, we are still here, we are still making a difference, and we will still speak highly of PNG and its people.

To our families – you may get stressed about us living here. I get stressed in an airplane šŸ™‚ We understand the risks living in a developing country, and they haven’t changed since we’ve been here. We don’t do stupid things, and we don’t take unnecessary risks, but we won’t be locked in a compound like some people live.

To my readers, and people wanting to live and work here in PNG. Check your local papers, there is always bad shit happening….

Aaron

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14 thoughts on “Violence and Tragedy here in PNG

  1. Interesting if somewhat distressing reading Aaron.
    I have been on the receiving end of a bush knife whilst visiting Garu Hot River with my family & some friends. A guy came out of the bush whilst myself & a friend were at the car & the rest of the party (including our 3 kid under 4) were maybe 15m away. He grabbed one of our bags from the car & when I screamed he hit me with his knife. He had squeezed past me to get the bag & I was very very lucky not too have been badly hurt. I have a large scar on my arm which reminds me every day of the dangers of living in PNG & I can still clearly see the mans face & hat which often haunts me. I am trying very hard to keep everything in perspective & not to let it push me away from PNG but sometimes I question our decision to be here with our toddler. We don’t live in a compound or have 24hr security & try to live as normal life as possible but it is certainly difficult. My husband sees a lot of difficult things every day in his work on the plantation & I know in someways this has heavily tainted his view of PNG & it’s people. For now we will stay though!

    • So sorry to hear that. Most Papua New Guineans would be horrified, and that is what gives me faith that the culture is changing for the better. We don’t have the rascal gangs of the past, we don’t have the rampages, but we still have problems. If there is a silver lining, it’s that we can make a difference here, yes, we hear and see things that would shock people at home, but back home very rarely would get the opportunity to help shape and mould a growing nation and its people.

      Take care šŸ™‚ and thanks for your comments
      Aaron

  2. Hi mate, really sorry to read all the above.
    Yes you are right heaps of bad things happen in other so called safe parts of the world.
    Like Australia, we have killings and other bad things happen every day, so many that every time I pick up the paper or turn on the tv there it is.
    There is so much of it, that most of it does not make the news anymore , it’s not payback or people with no money here, most of the time it’s just greed or people forgetting that you should treat people the way you want to be treated.
    Sad but true.
    Keep your chin up mate and I love your photos.
    Regards
    Scott.

  3. I am a national and it frustrates me every time I read, hear or watch stories like these and worse. It frustrates me that expats that come to our country and love it, and in the end it is the locals that spoil it – and they are only a minority.

    We complain about Asians and expatriates who come and do business in the country, yet we are not willing to sweat, sacrifice and do the hard yards that are required.

    I love my country and I am proud to be a Papua New Guinean but if this country is to change for the better the people’s attitude needs to change.

    BTW the pictures are awesome!! šŸ™‚

  4. Growing up on a farm in NZ, I remember often traveling on the tray of a ute (Toyota Stout – light truck). Dad & his shepherd in the cab, my brother and I sharing the tray with a dog or two. I don’t really have much of a problem with it. The reckless driving with kids on the back is another story – and like you say – could happen anywhere. You won’t see kids on the back in towns and main roads – but I bet it’s still common in rural areas.

  5. Hi Aaron,

    I am considering an opportunity in PNG and would be relocating with my wife and our three children (8,6, and 1yr old). Where are the best compounds located? Is there any good site I can lookup to get a feel for compound living? I guess a compound near a school would be the most suitable if possible.

    Thanks. Love the blog!

    • Hi Bren,

      Most of us tend to live closer to work rather than school. There aren’t actually many photos inside compounds, but I do have some on my blog https://kiwiexpat.com/2012/01/08/port-moresby-compound-photos/

      You really need to go through a lot of compounds to find one that you feel comfortable with, they all have good and bad points. Personally, I like where we are as it has great sea breeze, and the roads are very open and straight, no places for any nasty shit to happen.

      Cheers
      Aaron

      • Hey, appreciate the response. I guess I was thinking it would be better to be closer to the schools since that involves moving two school going children (possibly by mom) while a work journey only involves transporting myself.

        I am sensing that everything is pretty close regardless though. Are there any areas of the city better than others to live?

        Thanks again.
        B

      • I guess I am now looking at Gordon, Tokarara, Newtown, Bokoro, Kaevaga. (That’s half the city!)

      • lol, try Ela Beach :). Seriously, the heat over that side of the hill will kill ya… From our place in Ogoa St to the kids school is about 10 minutes. I work in Town, so my wife just drops me off on the way.

        I would not live in any of the places you have mentioned, in fact Tokarara is a no-go zone from memory… There are a few compounds dotted around Boroko/east Boroko, but you are miles away from anything other than school. Try looking around my area, or Airvos Ave area šŸ™‚

    • Hey Aaron,
      I have just moved over to port moresby for work am I’m currently living in Boroko. What a place this is!!
      It is certainly an experience. What are the places you consider for market shopping?
      Cheers
      Josh

      • Hi Josh,

        PAU Markets out at 14 mile every Sunday morning, turn opposite the water park and follow your nose – they have a shed selling imported and local food, as well as the outdoor market. If you can get out there by 7am’ish you won’t miss out, although we have rocked up at 9am and gotten everything we need.

        Malaro Market at 3 mile is great for fresh produce, but dress rough and keep your wallet close, take lots of smaller notes. Best to go with a local or friend the first time to get your confidence up šŸ™‚

        Sogeri – in general sogeri has the best fruit an veg anywhere in POM. We were up that way on Sunday and came back with the most divine pineapple…

        I wouldn’t go to any other markets but quite happy to stop and buy off the side of the road šŸ™‚

        cheers
        Aaron

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