PNG HALTS MADANG EVICTIONS

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 23) – The Madang Provincial Government had ordered a suspension of the eviction of illegal settlers in Madang, Papua New Guinea.

Madang Governor James Yali announced the suspension as the Ombudsman Commission expressed concern about possible human rights abuse in the exercise.

Governor Yali wrote to acting Provincial Police Commander Chief Superintendent Nema Mondia to halt the operations "for authorities to assess the situation".

He said: "Since the eviction operation started up until now, so many people have been displaced without shelter, food and water.

"To avoid turning the situation into a disaster, I hereby order a temporary suspension of the eviction by police."

Many people were displaced since the beginning of last week as police made sweeps through the settlements, destroying homes, food gardens, and livestock.

The displaced people are now being temporarily accommodated by the Catholic Church in its halls at Yomba Parish, New Town and at an open church at the Holy Spirit Cathedral. Others are living in temporary shelters that authorities have allowed them to put up.

Reports reaching The National say despite a National Court order stopping police from carrying out the eviction, police were seen at the weekend conducting raids on settlements.

One youth was allegedly shot by police when he tried to salvage things from his former home.

Settlement representative John Simbai, on behalf of the 10,000 settlers, sought and was granted an interim order last week restraining police from continuing the eviction.

But this order was apparently ignored, as police continued to pull down houses and forced people out of their homes.

The National Court will hear this case again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman Commission yesterday said it was "concerned with reports indicating that homes including other properties have allegedly been destroyed and consequently families have been left homeless" in the exercise.

Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno said: "the Commission will be doing all it can to consider a full investigation into the alleged breaches of human rights in the eviction exercise."

Mr Geno said the Commission had received complaints regarding the matter and it is in the process of considering these matters before a decision is made to properly inquire into the allegations.

He said: "The Commission has noted that there have been reports of alleged human rights abuses by government authorities in the eviction exercise and we are quite concerned with these.

"Under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman Commission, the officers of the Commission have been delegated powers to make initial inquiries to establish the facts before a decision is made for an investigation proper to be conducted where a complaint is received.

"It is appropriate that the Public Solicitor and his officers should be on alert to assist settlers whose rights and freedoms have been allegedly violated.

"While illegal settlements and related criminal activities are a real problem in our country, the issues need to be addressed by parties in a democratic manner."

December 23, 2003

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

 

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