The National, Friday 24th May 2013
By JAYNE SAFIHAO
MORE than 1,000 people have been awarded K4 million with costs by the court for damage to their properties in settlements around Madang town 10 years ago.
Judge David Cannings’ decision brought a big relief to the 1,281 people who suffered at the hands of local police during an eviction exercise in 2003.
The settlements are located at Public Tank, Sisiak One, Biliau Maus Rot, Marap Camp, Humade, Bukbuk Wagol Sawdust and DCA Line Banana Block.
He awarded K2,717,152.76 for the damage plus K1,412,919.44 as interest. The total of K4,130,072.20 is to be paid jointly by the three defendants – former provincial police commander Anthony Wagambie Jr, the provincial government and the State.
Many of the people had been told to return to their villages. But when proceedings began in 2006, many came back and collectively accused the provincial government of breaching an agreement governing the eviction of settlers.
Police destroyed homes and properties which the court ruled was “unlawful”.
There was an agreement between the provincial government and the Madang Settlement Committee reached in May 2000 and sanctioned by the court in July.
Cannings noted: “The agreement was also breached in other respects. There was a failure to identify and verify genuine settlers, a failure to resettle genuine settlers and a failure to allow for dialogue between the provincial government and the settlers.”
Cannings said the payment of damage should be shifted to the Madang provincial government (MPG) as “it was the entity that entered into the agreement with the Madang Settlement Committee and gave instructions to the police to conduct the eviction exercise”.
He said the provincial government should be responsible for its own mistake rather than deflect responsibility to the State.
“Applying the ‘but for’ test of causation, it is obvious that but for the direction of the MPG to the police to conduct the eviction exercise, it would not have occurred,” he said.