11 Jan 2005

PNG villagers launch US$19m claim against state over tribal fight

2:26 pm on 11 January 2005

Villagers in the Papua New Guinea province of Southern Highlands have launched a a US$19 million claim against the police and the state over a tribal fight.

Led by businessman Steven Mendepo, 607 villagers from the Tukuzup tribe who live near Mendi, lodged the claim in the Mount Hagen National Court, accusing the state and its agents for being responsible for the three-year tribal war.

The National newspaper reports the fight between the Tukuzup and Unjamap tribes was sparked by the killing of a school boy in a vehicle accident in 1999.

Over a three-year period, the warring tribesmen from both sides, armed with high powered guns, turned Mendi into a battleground, causing public servants to flee and forcing businesses and government services to close down.

The military-style attacks employed by both sides, were said to be particularly violent, even in comparison to regular tribal clashes in the Highlands.

A peace agreement was reached in May 2002.