SMALL PLANE DETAINED BY PNG VILLAGERS

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By James Apa Gumuno

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 24) - A twin-engine aircraft was prevented from taking off by the people of Semberi in the Erave district of Southern Highlands after delivering school supplies to the area last Thursday.

The people, numbering about 50, demanded that they be paid compensation first for the use of the airstrip before the aircraft would be allowed to take off.

The plane, owned and operated by South West Air, based in Mendi, was chartered by the provincial government to deliver school supplies when the incident happened, said staff officer of the Provincial Police Commander, Inspector Parinjo Charles.

Mr Charles said the people blocked the path of the aircraft as it was preparing to take off.

He said the pilot quickly called his base in Mendi to alert the police.

However, just before the police were able to board two choppers to fly to the scene, landowners decided to let the plane take off.

Mr Charles said the people were looking for reasons to delay the pilot from taking off to get the attention of provincial authorities for some unknown reasons.

He said the people did not cause any damage to the plane or harmed the pilot and its crew.

The plane flew back safely to its base, Mr Charles said.

The charter company in Mendi was reluctant to comment on the incident and said there was no need to report on the matter when contacted by The National yesterday afternoon.

August 25,2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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