Locals vow to support transnational highway construction workers

National, Normal

THIRTEEN communities in Baiyer River LLG from Western Highlands are against any private contract company participating with the PNG Defence Force to build the proposed transnational highway from Western Highlands to Madang province.
The communities gathered at the PNG Defence Force offices last Saturday in Simanga village, 15km north east of Baiyer station, to express their feelings to the Government.
The PNGDF engineer battalion from Igam barracks in Lae deployed 40 combat engineers in early January to the proposed site.
The soldiers, led by Lt Sarufa Eka and assisted by Sgt John Bungewa, conducted topographical and geographical surveys and mappings for the project to start next week.
Engineer battalion officers, including acting commanding officer and operations officer Maj Quadrat Larawin, Australian Defence Force engineering works officer Capt Adam Tull and Bravo Company commanding officer Capt Bruno Malau, visited the site at the weekend.
The construction work will begin at Baiyer LLG station to maintain the existing 15.1km access road to Simanga village.
The actual transnational road work will continue from Simanga through Jimi valley, Ruti, crossing Jimi River and connect with Simbai in Upper Ramu district in Madang.
Almost 200 people and leaders gathered to let the officers know how excited they were that the project was going ahead, after years of struggling to maintain the existing road.
In a bold move to show support to allow the road to pass through their villages, land and coffee gardens, they said they would assist and work collectively with the soldiers.
The transnational highway will have an immense impact on socio-economic lives of more than 60,000 isolated people from Western Highlands, Enga, East Sepik and Madang provinces that spread between the Bismarck and Schrader ranges.
Councillors Tepra Kol, Pintiki Pana and John Enga expressed their gratitude to the Government for undertaking the important project.
“We appreciate the meaningful project but won’t allow private contractors to be involved in trespassing through our villages and coffee gardens. Only PNGDF engineers are welcome,” the councillors said.
Capt Malau said  it is the soldier’s State obligation to empower communities, especially rural areas through such initiatives.