By MALUM NALU
FORMER Public Enterprises and State Investment Minister Ben Micah has called on the Air Niugini board and management to reinstate the eight pilots it sacked last week.
He said the pilots had become the “scapegoats” of the political unrest in July by university students who wanted Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down amid allegations of corruption against him.
Micah urged his successor William Duma to intervene and reverse the decision.
The eight are Captain Joe Kumasi and First Officer Boris Ageda (Boeing 767), Captain Ben Lopa and First Officer Elijah Yuangi (Boeing 737), Captain Vince Tongia and First Officer David Sekan (F100 and F70), and Captain Norman Daniel and First Officer Abel Kanengo (Dash 8).
They received their termination notices on Sept 15.
Air Niugini chief executive officer Simon Foo said they were terminated for taking part in a “politically-motivated” stop-work in July during the nationwide students’ unrest.
“There is no truth or righteousness behind the Air Niugini board and management decision to terminate eight very highly-skilled and experienced national pilots,” Micah told The National.
“I urge the board and the management of Air Niugini to be more considerate in their decisions on people like pilots and engineers who are highly skilled.
“It has taken Air Niugini and the country many years to train them.
“As much as politics has over the last couple of months clouded the judgment of many of us, we must not forget that we are a young, developing country and manpower development is one of our biggest downfalls.
“We have very few pilots per capita of the population.
“We have very few aircraft engineers.
“When you look at the number of pilots flying aeroplanes and helicopters, you find that three out of 10 are expatriates. What has happened to our pilot training programme?”
By MALUM NALU