LANDOWNERS SHUT UNIVERSITY OF GOROKA CAMPUS

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By Zacery Per

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 4, 2001 -The National/PINA Nius Online)---Members of the Okiufa tribe in Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands have stormed the University of Goroka campus and shut it down.

The Okiufa tribe, customary landowners of the area on which the University of Goroka is located, is demanding the immediate payment of K 2.7 million (US$ 888,300) before the university can reopen for 2001.

The Lands Title Commission last year awarded K 2.7 million to the Okiufa tribe after a hearing in Goroka. But no payments have yet been made even though negotiations for compensation began some 15 years ago.

The tribal group also has claims on land occupied by Goroka Business College, Goroka District Administration Services, Eastern Highlands Capital Authority Works Unit and other related institutions.

A ward councilor with the tribe, Robin Enka, told The National newspaper that the Okiufa people had lost patience over the long government delays in processing the payment for tribal land.

"We have earlier threatened to shut down all operations of the university and other related institutions, and have now successfully shut down all operations," he said.

"We will no longer tolerate any further negotiations. The only time we will sit down for a round table talk will be the time when our check is ready to be handed over."

Mr. Enka warned students throughout PNG who are to return for studies at the University of Goroka for the 2001 academic year to be fully alert to developments prior to making their travel arrangements.

He said administration section personnel at the university would be allowed to operate so they could help negotiate a final settlement with the relevant government authorities.

The Okiufa landowners have maintained that they are ready to hand back the 396 pounds sterling that was paid for the 90 hectares of land acquired from them by the colonial administrators.

They said negotiations over the land had gone on for 15 years ago, adding that 2001 would represent the 16th year of negotiation.

"We have gone through all avenues available during the past 15 years and have been very unsuccessful," said Mr. Enka.

"We have now moved in to shut down all functions of the university in frustration. We will further move to shut down operations of Goroka Business College and other government and public institutions situated on the land."

Mr. Enka said the University would only be allowed to reopen once the affected people had received the promised check for K 2.7 million.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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