By MALUM NALU
POLICE are guarding workers clearing a section of the Highlands Highway damaged by a landslide in Chimbu following a demand by landowners to be paid K1 million before work begins.
Works and Implementation Secretary David Wereh told The National last night that work on the Guo section of the highway began late yesterday after police were called in to provide protection to the Works employees.
He urged the landowners to be realistic because their demand was costing the country more than K1 million as the lifeline of the country leading to Jiwaka, Western Highlands, Enga, Southern Highlands and Enga had been blocked.
Last Thursday, the culvert at Guo, about seven kilometres from Kundiawa towards Jiwaka, collapsed causing a landslide which completely shut down the highway.
“According to our staff who have been sent into the area to liaise and negotiate with the landowners and the provincial administration, there is a demand for K1 million,” Wereh told The National.
“We want to make it clear that accounts are not open yet at this stage.
“We can consider them when the accounts is open, and on the basis of what this K1 million is for.
“But importantly now, the Highlands Highway is the lifeline for the business community, for the travelling public.
“It is chaos on the ground now: People are charging fees and all kinds of things are happening. We need to have some understanding. Restore the access as quickly as possible.
“I have issued instructions already to get police assistance and let’s restore the access. That’s the foremost thing.”
He suggested that the landowners should address their monetary demand to the disaster office.
“Natural disasters have an office that is responsible for that,” Wereh said.
By MALUM NALU