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Villagers on the isolated Budibudi Islands in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay live in fear of armed men searching for cocaine believed to be still hidden there two years ago, Budibudi councillor Essie Awaua says.
“These men in police uniforms frequently come in high-powered speed boats to terrorise and interrogate us on where the rest of the cocaine packets are hidden,” he said.
“They believe that we are still hiding the cocaine packets that was left by seven foreigners who have already left the country after being convicted for drug smuggling.”
Awaua said they wanted the provincial government to take action and protect them from such threat.
“Just last month, four men came and this is the fourth time,” he said.
“We ask for their names but they did not tell us.
“They were dressed in police uniforms and claimed to be a task force and they are armed with high-powered guns.
“They are Papua New Guineans and they came from Port Moresby. They usually come with four to six men in a speed boat.
“And we believe that they will still come again. They come searching for the packets of cocaine and we told them that we don’t have it.
“They say you give us the drugs or we will burn your houses down.
“It is a serious case and we are being traumatised by the fear of them returning again.”
Awaua said 11 bags of cocaine were found on the island in the Woodlark group in May 2018, by a fisherman on an isolated beach.
“We have given those bags to the police and the case is over now,” he said.
“We want to continue our normal lives now.
“But we are still living in fear.”
Budibudi Island made news in the international media after a fisherman disturbed a drug-running operation after finding nearly 60kg of cocaine bags buried on a remote beach.
The fisherman took his discovery back to his village.
But the villagers were later confronted by a group of aggressive, heavily tattooed foreigners (six men of Asian origin and one European) and forced to hand them back. These foreigners were believed to be smuggling cocaine from Asia to Australia and hid the packets in Budibudi.
The villagers reported the matter to the authorities resulting in the PNG Defence Force patrol boat intercepting the foreigners being taken to Alotau where they were investigated and convicted.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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