The National, Tuesday October 8th, 2013
By JEFFREY ELAPA
MORE police manpower will be dispatched to Poroma, in Southern Highlands, lift a roadblock set up by landowners at Utupia village.
Minister for Works and Implementation Francis Awesa said after a meeting with Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga yesterday, that commissioner instructed more policemen to clear the roadblock and allow the contractor to put in place a culvert that had dipped six weeks ago.
He said several policemen and soldiers dispatched to the area were outnumbered by locals and could not clear the roadblock over the Teki River.
Awesa said people should not hold the government and the development to ransom by unnecessary roadblocks and compensation demands.
He said Kulunga assured him that a full police unit would be dispatched to Utupia to arrest the perpetrators.
Kulunga issued a stern warning to landowners who try to set up roadblocks – that they would be arrested.
Awesa said the government would not tolerate landowners harassing travellers and hindering development.
He said the new infrastructure protection law would be enforced and perpetrators could be fined K100,000 and a serve a jail term of five years.
Local leader Stanley Pem said they were demanding only K20,000 as compensation for their land and for environmental damages.
“This is not state land. We do not benefit from the PNG LNG project but we are always the victim of their continuous dust and noise. We are only demanding K20 000 rightfully for our land,” he said.
He said through phone from his Kumanda village that when the culvert sank six weeks ago, the locals allowed a temporarily bypass through customary land and demanded K20,000 from the contractor.
However, he said the contractor never paid them any money and more damage was done while the locals who were employed in the reconstruction work were never paid.
Pem said police arrived yesterday but left as they were not allowed to cover the culvert until the K20,000 was paid.