The National, Thursday, May 26th 2011
MORE than 5,000 settlers of Buimo Road, Lae, are asking for political intervention after a bulldozer began clearing part of a 49ha of land yesterday.
The settlers are appealing to lord mayor James Khay, Lae MP Bart Philemon and Morobe Governor Luther Wenge to step in and offer some help.
They were being forced off the land they had lived on and developed for more than 20 years by the Papindo Group of Companies.
Many mothers slammed the action taken by Papindo and the police, saying they had nowhere to go and their children in school would be adversely affected and their husbands’ jobs would be on the line.
Community leaders, including Alex Dawa, appealed to the political leaders to consider the plight of the settlers.
He said the company could clear a 10ha area that was sparsely inhabited as the first stage of development.
“The other 39ha is heavily populated and developed by the settlers,” he said.
Dawa said the previous and the new owners should have “at least valued the areas developed by the settlers and paid them out”.
“The precedent has been set by the government when the IPBC paid out settlers at Maus Markham in Lae’s tidal basin development project,” he said.
“We are asking for people and authorities to act on their conscience and treat us humanely.”
Other community leaders joined in and criticised police for “working for companies”.
They recalled that last year, police commissioner Gari Baki had directed that policemen worked for the state only and not for companies when a sergeant from Kerowagi, Chimbu, was shot dead in Port Moresby while escorting a rubber company’s bank run from rural Central.
The land, the 49ha Portion 5, was bought by a subsidiary of the Papindo Group of Companies from the Department of Agriculture and Livestock’s business arm, the Livestock Development Corporation in 2008.
It is known to residents as Kau Banis because of its past use as a cattle farm.
The settlers had questioned the sale in court, backed by Khay and Wenge, and lost the case which they say cost them more than K10,000 in legal fees.