By JUNIOR UKAHA
A GROUP of landowners yesterday who blocked the Highlands Highway at Kainantu in Eastern Highlands are demanding the Government pay them K85 million for building the road on their land.
Members of the Anku’Aintenu Landowner Group in the Agarabi local level government felled trees and used old vehicles to block the road at six spots on the 4.5km stretch between Bane and the 4-Mile bridge.
The landowners are from the villages of Aga’anantu, Kainantu One, Kainantu Two, Kainawa One, Kainawa Two, Kelimapara and Omunayo.
They met on Sunday at Bane village and agreed to close the highway running through their land.
Group chairman Aaron Afantai said they were forced to shut down the highway after the lack of response to petitions sent to the Government and Department of Works to pay them compensation.
“We are seeking K50 million for environment damage and occupation for the last 51 years, and K35 million as payment for land acquisition,” Afantai said.
“We were forced to close the highway because in the past eight years, the authorities have been ignoring our petitions.
“Our latest petition was given two weeks ago and lapsed last Friday.
“We will close this road for an indefinite period until the Prime Minister, Works Secretary David Wereh and Works Minister Michael Nali come and talk to us.”
Scores of people and vehicles were left stranded on both sides of the Highlands Highway as a result of the road block. Passengers travelling to Lae, Madang and the Highlands provinces, had to get off the buses and walk the 4.5km road to catch public transport on the other side.
Police officers at the scene had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the landowners to open the highway.
Businesses that depended on the highway have been affected with highway trucks stopping at Kainantu Town, Goroka, Ramu, Yonki and Young Creek.
By JUNIOR UKAHA