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By Andrew Alphonse and Clifford Faiparik

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, August 15) – A group of Engans who apparently breached aviation rules by storming an aircraft in the hope of catching a "free ride" to Port Moresby were cautioned and released by police without being charged.

Police arrested 49 of them, one of them a female for storming the Airlines PNG plane at the Wapenamanda airstrip last Friday, seriously endangering the safety of the plane and its crew.

[PIR editor’s note: Enga is a Papua New Guinea province bordering Western Province which features rugged mountains, high valleys and fast flowing rivers ]

The plane was chartered and had just dropped off Governor Peter Ipatas and his guests.

Police had to use force to remove them, delaying the return flight for hours, and arresting the 49.

Enga provincial police commander superintendent Teddy Tei told The National from Wabag yesterday that he had planned to charge them with breaches of Civil Aviation Acts.

Mr Tei said, however, he released them with a caution after Governor Ipatas and provincial administrator Dr Samson Amean asked police not to charge the suspects but have them reprimanded and released.

He said since the two leaders in the province intervened, police decided to accede to their request.

Supt Tei condemned their actions of the 49 people saying it tarnished the name and image of the people of Enga.

He said it was not the first time for a minority group of people to make a mad rush for flights chartered by politicians.

He said a similar incident had been reported in the past.

Mr Tei warned that police would not tolerate any more similar incidents in the future.

He added that Governor Ipatas and Dr Amean were planning to write a letter of apology to the airline company.

Meanwhile, Airlines PNG said in a statement released yesterday that any future flights into the province would depend on security and crowd control.

The company statement read: "With respect to the incident last Friday in Wapenamanda, we confirm there were no injuries to our staff or damage to our aircraft. Whilst Airlines PNG doesn’t operate any schedules services to Wapenamanda, we would look very closely at security arrangements and adequate crowd control before any further aircraft movements into Wapenamanda."

Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Don Polye yesterday expressed his disgust at the plane incident, saying security would be tightened. If anything similar happened again, the airport would be closed, he said.

Dr Amean was also disgusted, warning that such behaviour will cause the airline operators to cancel their operation into the province

August 16, 2006

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