ESSAY: Compensation payment undermines justice in PNG


Compensation is a way of settling disputes between two parties. Compensation is typically money awarded to someone in recognition of loss, suffering or injury.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG) compensation is becoming common for settling disputes and making peace between two parties. Compensation is provided for different reasons, for example, homicide compensation, workers compensation and etc. This essay argues that compensation payment should be ban in PNG because of the three important reasons.

Firstly, compensation payment is not a proper method of solving problems and bringing justice because it enables the perpetrators and law breakers to go unpunished especially when it comes to murder or violence against women and girls in Papua New Guinea, where justice is particularly being undermined.

According an editorial inThe National Newspaper (July 1st, 2020), compensation is becoming a common trend agreed upon by opposing parties as a way of solving problems outside of the justice system.

Compensation, either in the form of money or pigs, is often paid to the victim’s families while perpetrators of some offence or crime are free to remain within their communities, exposing survivors to the threat of repeated violence. Another editorial in The National (2019) pointed out that the perpetrators of violent crimes can go unpunished if society deems compensation an acceptable form of justice.

However, compensation payment was a part of our culture when it was done traditionally to unite two parties together and to bring peace or make peace among them.

Whenever a compensation payment is done people are happy. It is part of conflict resolution between two parties. Cano (2020) explains how in Papua New Guinea it is common that when conflict arises community leaders meet in peace assemblies to reach an agreement and end the conflicts after announcing the payment of compensation especially for tribal fights and homicide.

According to an earlier comment reported in The National (2017) compensation payment is now becoming a normal way of solving tribal conflicts in the highlands. One former Western Highlands Province deputy governor confirmed that the compensation is to end the conflicts between the two clans. He said “I thanked the two clans for making peace and it must be followed by others who are engaged in such conflicts”.

The highlands leader said that the payment of compensation was the way to resolve tribal fights and brings peace to the communities.

Secondly, compensation payment often leads to family struggling, including those very innocent people. According to a recent article published in The National by Gynnie Kero (May 06th, 2020), the East Sepik police commander said in a statement that payments of compensation during conflicts in communities often leads to families struggling.

Also the demand of the compensation payments often resulted in innocent people within a community having to pay for a crime they had nothing to do with.

The East Sepik Police Commander [identified] said, “It is becoming a trend in the province where relatives of victims in any conflicts are demanding high compensation payments from an offender or the community or the settlement where the offender lives or comes from. The demand of compensation is affecting people who are not related to an offender. But because they come from the same community as the offender, they are forced to pay.”

Compensation payment is also very popular and one prominent business woman urged the government to create a new law to end compensation payment in the country because it is becoming too expensive.

Finally, in most cases the families and relatives of the victim were the ones who wanted compensation to be paid so that they can have a share of it. This is not right at all. The law must give victims the right to speak up and reject compensation payments and pursue their cases through the courts until the perpetrators were punished.

Also some of the serious crime offenders use compensation payments as a way to avoid facing the law and that’s why the victims must speak up and reject compensation payments and let justice prevail.

In an article in The National (Lari, 2015) it was reported that a magistrate raised her concern over many serious sex cases being withdrawn from the courts when families of victims accepted compensation payments. She said, “On any matter relating to sexual penetration, rape or mistreatment of women or girls, you must allow the court to deal with it. I do not know why people accept compensation and allow the law-breakers to walk away freely.”

In conclusion, compensation payments should be completely banned in Papua New Guinea because compensation payment is undermining justice.

Compensation payments always leads to family struggling as well as causing and forcing innocent people to pay for crimes they didn’t commit. It is a very expensive activity, causing a lot of money, quality time and resources, just to let the perpetrators free.

Some serious crime offenders use compensation as a means to avoid facing the law.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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