Soldiers in hunt for sect leaders

Orders have been issued to seek out and arrest of the leaders of a sect movement in an area of the flood-stricken Oro province.

The National, New Guinea/December 10, 2007

Security forces have been directed to detain cult leaders of the Puwo Gawe cult movement over their alleged involvement in hampering the effective distribution of relief supplies. The cult is reported to have a following in almost all areas of the province.

Yesterday, a team of police and soldiers were deployed to Begabari village along the North Coast with orders to round up cult leaders who allegedly meddled in the efficient distribution of relief supplies transported there last Saturday.

PNG Defence Force Task Force commander Lt Col Walter Enuma said he directed the team to seek out and arrest the sect leaders after receiving intelligence reports that the leaders had claimed the relief supplies.

"A report from Ambasi village also on the north coast to the main operations centre of the security forces at Vudal University Oro campus stated that a group of people, claiming to be followers of Puwo Gawe collected the relief supplies from a team of aid workers and volunteers, who had transported the goods there on an motorised dinghy," Lt Col Enuma told The National.

"I want those leaders, especially the people involved in the act, brought to me so that I can interview them," Mr Enuma said. To date the goods have not been returned.

Mr Enuma said the action taken by security forces was in line with one of the 13 orders of the controller of the Oro State of Emergency Col Vagi Oala. These were for people to refrain from hindering the relief efforts in the seriously affected areas.

Meanwhile, since Friday some members of the security forces were deployed to remote districts and centres including Kokoda, Tufi, Itukama, Sakarina, Wanigela and Ioma among others. They are to assess the current situation, see how people were coping and properly coordinate relief efforts and assistance.

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