Gera villagers block highway

National, Normal


ANGRY villagers living at the Gera landslip area in Simbu province yesterday blocked the Highlands Highway for five hours.
The peaceful protest was a demonstration to the Government expressing frustrations over delayed processing of their compensation claims.
Their claim stem from the creation of a by-pass in their area when the Gera section of the highway collapsed on April 5 last year, halting traffic along the Highlands Highway for two weeks.
Some 2,000 people of Woma tribe directly affected by the landslide and outstanding claims under the Highlands Highway Rehabilitation Programme (HHRP) barricaded the highway with stones and sat in the middle of the highway from 6am until Kundiawa police arrived to disperse them.
Chairman of Gera-Ima landslip committee Pastor John Kamane said they had about K7 million pending from the Government.
“We have not signed agreement but damages were assessed by the office of the National Disaster Centre (NDC).
“However, the Government has seen it fit to ignore our claims eventhough necessary documentations were in place,” he said.
He said another undertaking the Government made to re-establish infrastructures of health post, churches and other public amenities had not come good as promised.
Pr Kamane said Works secretary Joel Luma proposed a major by-pass about 11km long had not eventuated but the temporary by-pass had now became a permanent section of the highway.
“We are fighting for a small number of people who suffered as a result of the landslip and by-pass.
“The Works Department must come out clearly to address our grievances,” Pr Kamane said. 
Simbu provincial administrator Joe Kunda assured them that their claims would be resubmitted to the Works Department to process.
Mr Kunda said the people were frustrated due to prolonged delays in addressing the earlier claims.
He directed Sinasina-Yongumugl district administrator Bal Numapo to get copies of the claims to be resubmitted.
Simbu provincial police commander Supt Joseph Tondop said that such issues could be addressed peacefully.
He said it was a criminal offence to illegally block the highway and hold the travelling public to ransom.