The National, Wednesday 8th May 2013
LAE wharf, the country’s largest port, was closed down yesterday by disgruntled landowners.
Ahi and Labu landowners locked the gates to the wharf at 7am and prevented port workers from entering the wharf.
Ahi spokesperson Dominic Mark said they were forced to act because the government had failed to properly address their grievances since issues regarding the port were first raised last December.
The landowners and their companies – Riback Stevedores, United Stevedoring and Lae Port Services – earlier petitioned PNG Ports Corporation Ltd not to allow a fourth stevedoring company to operate in Lae.
“We will close the port for the next 48 hours starting today,” Mark said yesterday. “The government has forced us into this situation.”
The landowners held discussions with police and PNGPCL representatives.
Lae metropolitan commander Iven Lakatani and his deputy Fred Kaiwa were present at the gathering.
Lakatani told the landowners that they had the right to hold protest but it must be done peacefully.
“This is a sensitive issue. It is must be addressed properly so that there is gain from both sides,” he said. “It must not develop into a law and order problem. You must think of the other stakeholders operating in this city.”
The landowners promised police and the PNGPCL management in Lae that they would not cause any damage to properties at the port.
Felix Barua, the PNGPCL business manager, assured the landowners that he would take up their grievances with head office in Port Moresby.
“This issue is critical to our operations here and it must be resolved quickly,” he said.
Morobe Governor Kelly Naru said the demands of the landowners were serious because the port closure would affect businesses.
He said the national government had been ignoring the grievances of the locals.
Former Morobe premier Sir Jerry Nalau also criticised the government’s poor response to the grievances raised by the landowners.
The landowners yesterday demanded to meet Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Minster for Public Enterprises and State Investment Ben Micah.