The National, Monday 6th May 2013
By PETER ESOP WARI
DRIVERS of trucking companies contracted to work at the PNG LNG project site in Hela are on strike after two of their numbers were badly bashed and a Guard Dog Security escort vehicle taken by locals at Tidom Hill in Southern Highlands over the weekend.
The drivers are asking PNG LNG developer ExxonMobil and the national government to fix the road immediately as they (drivers) have become victims of assault, robbery and looting when the deteriorating conditions of the Highlands Highway forces them to stop or slow down.
More than 60 semi-trailers are sitting idle at the Curtain Brothers camp in Tari while drivers and crews continue their strike.
Tari police station commander Peter Buka said a Trasia Transport Company Ltd driver was trying to negotiate an uphill section of the highway when the truck skidded off the road leaving the trailer blocking the highway and causing a traffic jam.
He said the other driver of the semi-trailer wanted to pull the vehicle out when locals took advantage of the situation and stopped him.
He said the locals wanted to create a small bypass road to collect money from vehicle owners and demanded that the semi-trailer remained there for several days.
However, the two drivers wanted to pull the vehicle out and continue with their journey, which angered the locals.
Buka said one of the drivers lost three teeth when he was punched and booted and the other driver was admitted to the Mendi General Hospital with bushknife wounds.
He said the drivers expressed dissatisfaction over the deterioration of the Highlands Highway starting from Lae wharf to the PNG LNG project site in Hela.
He said the worst section was the road from Kiburu, near Mendi town to Hela.
“The national highway has become an avenue for unemployed youths to generate income,” Buka said.
“They create potholes, redirect streams to cause landslides, cause blockages and loot vehicles. This has become a problem.”
He said stalls were evident everywhere.