There are better ways to protest

Editorial

WHILE one can fully understand where the Koiari people are coming from in terms of their demands for better equity from the government, we cannot – and should not – condone the method of protest they used.
We appreciate where the angst is coming from for a people on whose resource powers the city of Port Moresby. From the Sogeri plateau to the hinterlands surrounding the nation’s capital, the Koiari have been passive benefactors of the natural resource which powers NCD and provides water for all manner of daily activity.
The landowners claim that governments, past and present, have failed to compensate them adequately for this privilege.
This is no trivial matter. Over the weekend PNG Power officials with the support of the National Capital District police had to retrieve the keys which the landowners had taken off workers manning the Sirinumu dam. Their complaint in this instance was the failure by the state to honour an agreement for the sealing of a 10km stretch of road from Iaorwari to Sirinumu.
PNG Power acting chief executive Alex Oa gave credence to the claim, saying that Cabinet had directed the NCD Commission and Eda Ranu to provide the funding for the road. Apparently the job was not completed.
Oa said his staff had managed to regain access to the dam and its facilities and a crisis had been averted.
The landowners of Sirinumu, as well as Rouna and Mt Eriama where PNG Power’s electricity generation and Eda Ranu’s water treatment plants are located, have over the years sounded off their dissatisfaction with the state and indeed the city’s administrators to seriously consider their claims.
This has been an ongoing issue for the Koiari people who have seen little in the way of developments in exchange for the resource which provides the life blood of the city. Their frustration is borne from the fact that elsewhere in the country, particularly the resource-rich areas of the Highlands region and other locations where the extraction of valuable commodities from mining and hydrocarbons has been highly lucrative, the indigenous landowners have played a significant role in the process and a share of the wealth. That has not happened for these people, who inhabit a corridor of land in Central province that just so happens to supply the fuel that runs the city that everyone – including parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and even the affluent landowners from other parts of the country – take for granted.
Something needs to be done. Action needs to be taken, but certainly not in the form of a ransom demand. Regrettably, it has come down to this sad state of affairs where a minority, regardless of the fact that they have a right to claim, has the power to threaten to bring an entire city to its knees.
This is unacceptable and must not be tolerated.
There are better and less-crippling ways of getting one’s point across. The courts, for example, are available to every citizen of this country to use to seek redress. If it is good enough for the rest of PNG then it should be good enough for the Koiari people.
Many will point out that other groups, particularly in the Highlands region, have held the nation and government to ransom for dues unpaid, promises unfulfilled and expectations unmet. That is a problem a prudent and fair government should resolve.
The regular threats and demands and claims by landowners directly affect the lives of innocent people and businesses.
The catalyst for the shutdown threat was the lack of a positive response from those in authority on the construction of a road. The irony is that while the feeling of not being given a fair go has been the Koiari’s main cause for disappointment and chagrin, Port Moresby continues to provide a haven for all the nation’s peoples to go about their business in blissful ignorance, unaware and much less concerned.
These people live and prosper in the city which the Koiari play provider to. The Koiari, in sharp contrast, have received very little in return from the users of their resource.

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