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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 25) – Angry protestors demanding the appointment of a permanent administrator for Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands yesterday morning stormed the Yanepa provincial government building.

The ensuing confrontation with security guards resulted in a number of people being hospitalized with arrow wounds.

Protesters threatened and physically removed government employees out of their offices and demanded Governor Malcolm Smith-Kela to address them.

However, Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Supt Philip Solala intervened with his policemen to restore order and control.

The protesters said they were frustrated over the government’s long delay in appointing a permanent administrator for Eastern Highlands province.

The administration buildings remained closed for the whole of yesterday as public servants stayed away in fear of their lives.

The protestors were led by Nescape Aigava, who called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to travel to Goroka within seven days and announce the appointment of a permanent provincial administrator.

"We are giving the government seven days to respond," he said.

Governor Smith-Kela, acting provincial administrator Munare Uyassi and some members of the provincial executive council were in their offices when the protest turned violent.

The governor refused to address the protesters, saying he was not given a proper notice of the protest and actions.

Mr Smith-Kela said he sympathized with the protestors over the delay by the national government in fast tracking the appointment of a permanent provincial administrator.

He blamed the national government for the delay, adding this should have been done 18 months ago.

"The disturbance in Goroka today is caused by the decision makers for causing the delays," he said.

He said last October, the Public Service Commission sent a list containing only three names instead of the mandatory five and the Eastern Highlands provincial executive council submitted its recommendation to the relevant government departments.

"We were surprised that our submission, presented to the minister for Public Service, was being circulated in Goroka within one week to interested candidates," said the governor.

He said they were also aware of a new list of candidates for the position also being circulated. He said the frustration comes from the supporters of the unofficial candidates.

"The disturbance would never eventuate if the national government had done its job. I can honestly say that I sympathize with the demonstrators," said Mr Smith-Kela.

Acting administrator Uyassi said his term in office expired two years ago and he has since been acting in the position.

"I am not here because I want the job, but the national government has not made any decision regarding the job."

April 25, 2006

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