Funds needed to repatriate settlers

Lae News, Normal

The National- Friday, January 14, 2011



 THE Morobe provincial government has allocated K1.3 million to repatriate people at the Bulolo care centre but still needs more to complete the exercise for the 2,500 people since May last year. 

The Bulolo district had repatriated settlers from Bulolo to Wewak after bloody fighting in April last year with the local villagers.

The second voluntary exercise for 30 families was paid for mainly by the Morobe provincial government.

Of the K4 million earmarked for the exercise by the national government, only  K57,400   was paid to the Morobe disaster office (MDO) to be used as re-settlement allowance while the national disaster office has retained the rest.  

From this, MDO had spent K14,100 on the first repatriation exercise and was awaiting to conduct three more trips for the settlers to return to their homes along the Sepik River.

A boat from Madang to Wewak was K44,000 and the first boat payment was done by Morobe provincial government on the premise that the National Disaster Office would reimburse.

This has not happened and the provincial disaster office said it needed a further K132,000 to complete the re-settlement of Sepik River people by boat before it can start on Sepiks from other areas and other provinces.

The MDO said the National Disaster Office could opt to make direct boat payments to companies in Madang so they could facilitate movement from Bulolo to Madang. 

“If they do not want us to have access to the funds, we have a job to do and we just want to get it over and done with,” the provincial disaster office said.

Law and order issues in Bulolo alone has set the Morobe government back by K6 million and has irritated Governor Luther Wenge and the people of Morobe.  

The national government had publicly endorsed a K3 million funding for the re-settlement exercise but to date, the provincial disaster office denies receipt of any such monies while their counterparts at Waigani said the money had been released.

And patience is running out for both local landowners who want those in the care center repatriated immediately and those in the care center who also want to be sent to their homes of origin as soon as possible.  

Retired senior public servant, Henry Veratau, who was heading the national government’s Bulolo committee has since been side-lined, a further setback for the programme as communication between Waigani and Lae has become flimsy.

Meanwhile, the Bulolo Stretim Sindaun Committee is urging Wenge and national and provincial committee members to call a round table conference and clear the air on the matter.

They said that nothing had been happening in the past two months signifies disinterest on the part of these agencies and they would not sit back any longer and see problems escalate in their township.

Consisting more than 10 representatives from different villages in and around the area, the committee on Wednesday said errant young men from the care center were again becoming wayward and something must be done quickly as matters are heating up again.