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Clans dig up road

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By REBECCA KUKU and GYNNIE KERO
ROAD access to the multi-million kina PNG LNG project in Hela has been cut off by warring tribes who dug huge holes across the road making it impassable for vehicles.
Hela Governor Philip Undialu called it a serious crime that warranted the attention of law-enforcement agencies.
Provincial police commander Michael Welly said the road was dug up at the approach to the Tagali Bridge and the approach to the Nogoli Bridge.
He also said a big tree was placed across the road to block vehicles passing through.
The road leads to the Hides conditioning plant and the base office of ExxonMobil, the operator of the project.
Undialu told The National last night that he was concerned about what the landowners did, considering that the province accommodated an important project.
“This is a serious crime committed that needs serious attention.  I condemn whoever is involved in doing that,” he said.
Welly said the fighting among the tribes at Kobalu had been ongoing for almost three years.
He said police had managed to stop the fighting several times but something would happen later to trigger it again. It flared up again five months ago when a member of one the factions was killed.
Welly said the people who dug up the road said they wanted to stop fighters from the other faction crossing the bridge.
“They (PDL 1 and PDL 7 landowners) also have issues concerning clan vetting and infrastructure development grants promised to them by the government but had not been honoured for some years now,” he said.
He said an excavator was used on Tuesday night to dig up the road near the Tagali Bridge.
A spokesperson for ExxonMobil said the company was continuing to monitor the situation which was unrelated to the PNG LNG project.
“Our facilities are continuing to operate with no material impacts. The safety and security of our workforce is our priority.
“ExxonMobil PNG is committed to maintaining a positive relationship with the landowners, the Government and the wider community.”
Welly said Department of Works engineers were inspecting the damaged sections to be repaired.
“Police officers are also on the ground to negotiate and try get the road cleared and filled as soon as possible,” he said.

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