By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI
A GROUP of people claiming to be landowners from the Juha gas field have called on the Government and relevant authorities to recognise them.
The Juha Pokaiya tribe composed mostly of the upper and Lower Strickland River basin numbering about 25,800 live in very isolated communities.
They hardly interact with the outside world because of inaccessibility to this part of PNG that straddles the provincial boundaries of Western, Southern Highlands, Sandaun and Enga provinces.
Their tribal chief Andrew Makano is in Port Moresby with some of his people to meet with Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and present their case for recognition.
To get to Port Moresby, they had to trek for three days to the Frieda River area in Sandaun province to pan for alluvial gold nuggets which they sold to pay for their airfares to Ok Tedi’s mining township of Tabubil, and then to Port Moresby where they are housed by a relative at the Morata settlement.
Speaking in Tok Pisin Mr Makano expressed concern that if they did not make their presence felt, they would be forgotten and other communities like the vocal Huli people would represent their interest and take away benefits that should rightfully belong to them.
“We are not educated, we are not able to read and write. We don’t want the educated people to take over what is ours.”
We are asking the government to respect us and help us by recognising our existence as landowners of the Juha gas project and treat us as equals with the other project landowners,” Mr Makano said.
As an example, he said the Hides Gas Development Corp owned by Hides gas landowners of the Huli people have registered a company called Juha Joint Venture Ltd as a subsidiary company, which he said did not involve them.