Early yesterday morning in Port Moresby the terrible price of the mindless violence that plagues PNG’s capital was laid bare.

Near Laloki on the city’s outskirts, a gang of thugs in a mini-van forced a public bus off the road and bashed and stabbed its passengers with bush knives and machetes, killing one and leaving another in a critical condition.

The murdered young man, Rex John from Naduri village about halfway along the Kokoda Track, was travelling to Moresby from his teaching college at Veifa’a about four hours away to pick up the academic gown he hoped to wear to his graduation as a Community Health Worker this coming Saturday.

Both Rex and Jackson were studying on scholarships from the Australian-based not-for-profit organization, the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF). After graduation, Rex was to be posted back to his home village where he would serve as Naduri’s resident Community Health Worker, giving his community access to basic health care for the first time.

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“The Kokoda Track Foundation is deeply saddened and distressed by Rex’s death,” KTF Chairman, Patrick Lindsay said today. “Rex and Jackson were outstanding students – unsung local heroes  - who had spent years studying to acquire desperately-needed medical skills which they hoped to bring back to their remote villages,” Lindsay said.

“It’s a tragedy that some cowardly thugs can snatch Rex’s life away and deprive his family and community of a wonderful young man and the health care he hoped to give them.”

Rex was travelling on the bus with his friend and fellow Community Health Worker student, Jackson Fred from Efogi village on the Track, who was also to graduate this weekend. Jackson was also stabbed in the attack but is recovering in hospital.

Local police were called to the scene after the attack and helped to transport Rex and Jackson to Port Moresby General Hospital. Sadly, Rex’s injuries were too severe and he did not survive the night. Jackson is currently receiving medical treatment for his injuries.

“We strongly condemn the attacks and we call for a detailed investigation into the murder,” Lindsay said. “We send our sincere condolences to Rex’s family and to the Naduri community and we pass on our deep sympathies to their fellow students at St Gerard’s School of Nursing who are all saddened and shocked by the tragedy. We also pass on our best wishes to Jackson for a speedy recovery.”

Over the past two and a half years, the KTF has supporting Rex and Jackson to complete their Diplomas in Community Health Work at St Gerard’s School of Nursing, Veifa’a. Along with two other KTF scholarship trainees, Rex and Jackson were to start work with the Foundation in July, where they were to be posted into aid posts along the Kokoda Track.

“It would have been the first time that all villages along the Kokoda Track had access to qualified community health workers. We will continue to work toward that aim,” Lindsay said.

“The Foundation hopes to honour Rex John by creating a Community Health Worker’s Scholarship in his name and by seeking permission to name the Naduri Aid Post after him.”