By JAMES APA GUMUNO
FUEL, food supplies and medicines are running low in Mendi and other parts of Southern Highlands province after villagers set up a roadblock on the Okuk Highway in the Ialibu district.
Trucks transporting goods and equipment to Mendi and other oil and gas oil project sites in Southern Highlands are stranded in their bases in Mt Hagen since Monday.
People living between the Ialibu road junction and the Agule River chopped down trees and dug up huge sections across the 35km section of the road to show their frustration at not being paid compensation for their food crops and houses located along the road which were removed under the Highlands Highway Rehabilitation Programme.
Provincial police commander Supt Jimmy Onopia told The National from Mendi yesterday that service stations based around Mendi town were running low on diesel.
Supt Onopia said that all shops in the town were also running low on basic foods and other goods.
He said the Mendi General Hospital had also complained of running out of medical drugs and oxygen.
He said that police talked with the people living between Ialibu road junction and the Agule River to remove the roadblock but they were reluctant to cooperate with the police.
Supt Onopia said that these handful of people were holding the majority of the people in the province at ransom.
He said that police had the names of the ring leaders and they would be arrested shortly.
Supt Onopia said police would move in today and clear the roadblock.
He added that the road would be reopened by this afternoon.
Council president for Nipa Basin local level government, David Navur, who walked for eight hours from the Agule River to Ialibu road junction and caught a PMV bus into Mt Hagen yesterday, said that the prices of goods had already skyrocketed by 50% in Mendi and other parts of the province.
He said that many shops in Mendi were already running short of goods.
Mr Navur said many business houses were already losing money because of the roadblock.
He said travellers were stranded on both sides of the road waiting for it to be reopened.