PNG LANDS OFFICIAL ATTACKED IN MT. HAGEN

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By James Apa Gumuno

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 24) –A man wielding an iron bar attacked a senior officer with the Papua New Guinea Lands Department in his office in Mt Hagen last week.

Highlands Regional physical planner Nazel Zanepa was sitting in his office and working on Wednesday when the man, believed to be a local, walked into his office in the company of nine others and hit him in the head with an iron bar.

The identity of the assailant or those he was with is not known, but police have been informed about the attack.

Mr Zanepa is nursing a wound in his head that required 10 stitches.

Mr Zanepa said the attacker walked into his office and questioned him about his role on the lands board.

"I told him that the lands board was not my section but the man just lifted the iron bar, which is about a metre long, and hit me on the head."

He said he called out for help and some of his workmates rushed over and rescued him, while the assailant slipped away.

Mr Zanepa said prior to the attack, he had been receiving threatening phone calls from people regarding land in the city.

"Sometimes people come to me and tell me to leave and go, telling me this is not my province or otherwise they will kill me."

After receiving so many threats, he wrote three separate letters in 2002 and 2003 to the Lands Department in Port Moresby to relocate him to Goroka, but the department refused.

Fearing for his life, he moved on his own to Goroka with his family last year, but was told to move back to Mt Hagen.

He said Mt Hagen city is no longer a safe place to live and work, and he wanted to get out quickly.

Mr Zanepa said the proposal by the Lands Department to build a regional office in Mt Hagen should be abandoned. He will recommend that such an office be built in Goroka.

He has worked in the province for a decade after moving from Rabaul in 1995.

His wife Lin said they have been living under threats for too long and did not want to stay in the province anymore.

She said her husband was nearly killed in the attack, and she pleaded with the department to allow them to move to Goroka within the week.

January 25, 2005

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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