Story and picture by JAMES APA GUMUNO
BARRICK (PNG) Ltd, the developer of giant Porgera gold mine in Enga province, has stepped in to help renovate the much publicised condemned Wabag police cell.
Renovation work on the condemned police cell started on Monday and would take about four weeks to complete.
Barrick is renovating the seven cells, carrying out extensions to cater for the guards, replacing the sewage system, strengthening the building’s structure, connecting water and electricity supplies and adding two more security razor wire fencing to the existing one surrounding the cell building.
The work is carried out under the tax credit scheme (TCS) of Barrick Gold after a request from the provincial administration requesting Barrick for a sum of K1.35 million to carry out the renovations.
The sorry state of the cell, condemned by the Health authorities as unfit for human occupation
in 2006, had been highlighted by The National in the past month.
It started with Wabag resident judge Justice Graham Ellis ruling about a month ago it was a breach of human rights to put detainees and prisoners in the cell.
When no authority responded, Justice Ellis and his court staff started cleaning the cells on alternate Sundays.
Site supervisor Juki Makao, from TCS, said: “We are only carrying out renovation work as directed. I do not know the exact cost.
“It is only for a short-term. The building is very old and there is a need construct a new police cell.”
Acting provincial police commander Chief Insp Martin Lakari said the renovation work was to enable the temporary use of the cell.
“It was condemned in 2006 and it has been costly for Wabag police to transport remandees and prisoners down to Baisu jail in the Western Highlands province and back.
“After the renovation work is completed, it would be a relief for the police but the problem is yet to be addressed for the long-term,” he said.
He thanked Barrick and Justice Ellis for their support.
Meanwhile, 15 remandees kept overnight inside the cells were transported to Baisu yesterday.