Growing rift between Manam islanders, locals

Joe Masep (left) and wife Marygorethy were victims of the fight in 2018 where they lost their cocoa plantation near the Mangem plantation. Settlers are now gardening in their plantation. – Nationalpic by SYLVESTER WEMURU

A VOLCANIC eruption forced Manam islanders to flee to Madang in 2004, but today, there is a growing rift between them and the Bunabun locals.
The islanders were relocated by the then government officials who allegedly ordered the relocation without any consultation.
Today, the rift between the Manam islanders and people on the mainland in Sumkar and Bogia has blown into a law and order disaster.
The population at one of the care centres at the Mangem plantation has increased, forcing them to occupy the customary land of the Bunabun people.
Cocoa and coconut farmer Joe Masap told The National: “The Government and other agencies should step in to address this issue of resettling the islanders now.
“We, the locals, have been severely affected by the decision of the then government officials to relocate the islanders here.
“Our school is struggling to operate and we are not sure if the school year can be completed successfully.
“In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the school had to be suspended because of the fight between us and the islanders on April 22, 2018.
“Our health centre is closed and we have to travel a long way to seek medical treatment if we are sick. Our government has failed us big time.
“We have lost valuable properties to strangers that came to settle on our land.
“We are peaceful people, so we had to leave our cocoa and coconut plantations and move into the jungle.”
Masap appealed to the Government to seriously address the law and order “disaster” afflicting Bunabun. “We are farmers and I want my cocoa garden back to earn my living to pay my children’s school fees,” he said.
“The Government will not come and feed us every day.”