Businesses hail repatriation plan

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MEMBERS of the business community in Milne Bay have welcomed the decision by the provincial law and order committee to conduct a voluntary repatriation/resettlement exercise for squatters.
Milne Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jeff Abel said many employees of businesses lived in the settlements around Alotau town.
Members of the business community last week had a meeting with Police Commissioner David Manning, Alotau MP Charles Abel, plus officials from the district and provincial administrations.
“A lot of business owners have staff living in the squatter settlements,” Abel said.
“So the decision was made to continue what was started some years back to remove illegal settlements under the same repatriation programme, with assistance from the district and the provincial governments.”
Manning visited the town last week to see the aftermath of the clashes last month between police and the criminal gang reportedly led by Tommy Baker.
“(Manning) talked about police operations and the reasons for taking a strong stand against the settlements in light of the evidence of their involvement in the attack on the town, and tracking down the gang members who are a real threat to our town,” he said.
“Business houses with staff in these areas are asked to (provide) accommodation to those who are being moved.”
He said they had been given 60 days to make arrangements before police stepped up their operations.
Alotau MP Abel told The National yesterday that the decision to conduct a voluntary repatriation or resettlement for the squatters was based on the recommendation of police commander Supt Peter Barkie.
“(PPC Barkie) explained it was impossible to maintain law and order when an incident occurred and hundreds of youths emerged from the settlements to take advantage,” Abel said.
Alotau has been running a settlement repatriation programme since 2008.