By RIGGO NANGAN
A LEADER from the Watut River in Bulolo, Morobe, has refuted the call by Bulolo MP Sam Basil to stop Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) from paying environmental damage compensation to the locals.
A community leader from Sambio village in Mumeng LLG, Patrick Bendumb, said from Bulolo on Thursday that Basil should not stop the affected communities from receiving environmental reparation payments for their food gardens and other properties from MMJV.
“Let the communities get their payments to ease them from their problems, and if the MP wants to engage toxicologists to test the river systems, then he should do so,” Bendumb said.
Bendumb said the toxic test and legal implications that might come up could take longer.
He said groups like the Union of Watut River Communities (UOWRC), Watut River Impact Priorities Committee (WRIPC) and others, had been calling for help from leaders and authorities to address the issue for some time but got no response.
He said it seemed the people’s problems were not being acknowledged, forcing them to take the opportunity provided by MMJV.
Basil went on a warpath with MMJV last week after the company started paying compensation to the villages last month.
He went on NBC national radio last week where telling the villagers to refrain from signing any statutory declarations issued by the company or receiving any payments from them and the Morobe government until legal advice was sought.
He said signing of the statutory declarations might jeopardise future lawsuits against the company if any legal implications did occur.
The UOWRC executives were helping Basil in trying to stop MMJV community affairs officers from getting the people to sign the papers three weeks ago when they landed them in court for unlawful damage and harassment.
Bendumb said the people respected the MP and the course he was taking but how long it would take was a concern.
“People do react to situations and it would be hard to control if the communities decided to take matters into their own hands.” Bendumb said.