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By Daniel Korimbao

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 19) - Police in Port Moresby had to rush a mobile unit to the Kokoda Trail yesterday following reports that landowners had blocked entry into the area to prevent 12 high profile Australians walking the famous trek as part of this year’s Anzac Day celebrations.

The Australians, who arrived in the country on Sunday, include rugby league legend Mal Meninga, cricketing great Allan Border and Treasurer Peter Costello’s number two Mal Brough.

Together with kidney specialist professor David Harris and students from the Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane, they were to spend 10 days on the trial to draw attention to the problem of kidney disease and to raise money for research.

After learning of plans by landowners in Kokoda to block the trek, police called in the Police helicopter, which was ferrying government ministers in the Southern Highlands province, and rushed a mobile unit into the area.

A government source said the police unit was able to talk to leaders of four of the five clans that live along the trek to prevent any moves by these villagers to close the trek.

"They did not speak to members of the fifth clan, but we do not think they are about to do such a thing," the official said, adding the police unit returned because they did not see a need for police deployment at this time.

The official said he did not know if Meninga’s team had started their planned 10-days walk up the trek. Some of the fiercest of battles were fought during the Second World War along this trek. Australian soldiers who died in the campaign are remembered during the Anzac Day. Papua New Guinea has declared a public holiday on April 25 to hold events commemorating their services.

April 20, 2005

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