Pomat risks life to visit villagers

Main Stories, National


INTER-Government Relations Minister Job Pomat was spared by angry Bogia villagers when he visited them last Thursday to learn first-hand the problem between them and the Manam islanders settling on their land.
Mr Pomat risked being slashed with bush knives last Thursday afternoon by men and youths in a state of frenzy painted for war and armed.
The men from in and around Tobenam, who came to hear Mr Pomat speak, were clearly frustrated at the lack of show by their own governor, Sir Arnold Amet, and local MP and Agriculture Minister John Hickey.
Mr Pomat calmed the locals telling them that “he had no vested interest and was just there to help”.
He assured them at the Bogia station the Prime Minister had agreed for a special National Executive Council meeting today to discuss their situation.
At Simbini, the locals said they did not want to see the faces of either Sir Arnold or Mr Hickey as they would be “killed”.
The locals praised Mr Pomat for humbling himself and making a timely appearance when they (both sides) thought that they were forgotten by the Government.
Mr Pomat, who received petitions from both the displaced islanders and mainlanders, has one week to resolve the issue or “there would be further bloodshed”.
The Government has been given a one-week ultimatum to move the Manam Islanders out of Bogia. Mr Pomat spent last Thursday and Friday there. He visited Manam Island villagers along the North Coast and the care centres where the islanders were settled since the November 2004 volcanic eruption.
At the quiet seaside village of Simbini where Mr Pomat was presented the ultimatum, the people said they had had enough of the threats and constant disrespect shown by Manam Islanders and that the Government had to move them by Saturday or there would be further bloodshed.
Mr Pomat visited Tobenam village where local landowners handed him their petition.
At Bogia station, the displaced Dugulamba settlers demanded that the Government provide a speedy response to their list of demands.
At Asarumba care centre, many of the speakers spoke of the lack of response by the Government and the human rights abuses they had to endure for the last seven years.
Former Iabo LLG president Nelson Mambote said: “We are the rebels. We are prepared to fight and defend this State-given land for our children.
“Manam has no hope. We will fight. Six years is too much,” he said.
The situation on the ground remains tense and a mobile police unit from Lae is in the area.