Lismore man in PNG kidnap drama
A LISMORE man was one of four Australians tied up at gunpoint before bandits raped one of their group during a shocking carjacking in Papua New Guinea's Madang province.
The three young men from AusAID's Youth Ambassador program, and a woman who was in the country on a surfing holiday, were stopped by a group of five bandits as they slowed for a pothole on the North Coast Road, in the north-west of the country, on Saturday.
The group was bound and robbed and the woman, a friend of one of the men, raped by the bandits.
The Lismore man, who asked not be named, yesterday confirmed he had been one of the people in the group. He said each of the four people, who had all since returned home, were physically well, although obviously traumatised by the attack.
The man said he was not yet able to talk about his experience, but pointed The Star to a WA Today interview with the mother of another of the victims describing the attack.
According to that report, the attackers drove the Australians deep into the jungle and then took them on foot into some scrub before forcing them at gunpoint to lie down.
The bandits tied up the group with bits of rope from their clothes. The woman was tied to a tree and raped with her three friendslying helpless.
After the rape, four of the bandits left, with one remaining to watch the group for about another hour. Once that bandit left one of the men chewed through the ropes binding the woman, who then untied the other three.
The group headed deeper into the jungle in an effort to avoid the bandits before eventually reaching a village and calling police.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade described the attack as ‘appalling'.
The Australian High Commission provided consular assistance to the group until they left Papua New Guinea. AusAID is now providing follow-up help and support through Austraining International, the company it uses to manage the Youth Ambassador program.
“We have made clear to PNG authorities the Australian Government's interest in ensuring all the perpetrators are brought to jus-tice,” the spokesman said. “Local police have apprehended two suspects in the case and we are confident that local police are doing all they can to bring all involved to justice.”
The attack has sent shockwaves through PNG, withlocal media reporting the country's Tourism Promotion Authority has vowed to follow every legal avenue to bring the bandits to justice.
Authority acting chief executive William Bando said the authority wanted to send ‘warning signals to any fut-ure opportunists and thugs who see our visitors as prey', the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier reported.
“This is a very sad and bad day for the image of our country and tourism industry, which we try hard under extreme circumstances to promote,” he was reported saying.
“Each time we are greeted by such insane actions of a minority, our gains are derailed and our reputation is washed faster down the gutter.”
PNG's capital Port Moresby, with its serious law and order issues, was this year ranked among the world's five worst cities to live in by The Economist magazine.
Madang is a popular PNG tourist location and a hub for NGOs and aid workers which is considered far less dangerous than Port Moresby.
But Madang's increasing population and growing problems with illegal settlers have seen a steady rise in violent crime.
It was also reported on Tuesday that armed Madang locals attacked PNG's Agricultural Minister John Hickey and his wife travelling on the North Coast Road.