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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, Oct. 18) – Conservation International staff in Alotau, Papua New Guinea, have been locked out of their office as differences over the future of a PGK19 million [US$6.7 million] conservation project in Milne Bay Province reached boiling point.

[PIR editor’s note: Alotau is the provincial capital of Milne Bay Province located on the southeastern tip of the Papua New Guinea mainland peninsula.]

Reports reaching the Post-Courier indicate that the Conservation International Alotau office, which managed Phase 1 of the Milne Bay Community-based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project, was locked on orders from Milne Bay Governor Tim Neville.

Mr. Neville has vowed to kick out the non-government organization and used the findings of a United Nations Development Program evaluation report as justification for his actions.

The report alleged that funding for the five-year program was diverted to non-project related areas, or had run out a year before the project’s completion.

But executive director for Conservation International’s Melanesian region, Gaikovina Kula, yesterday said legal advice was that any moves to lock out Conservation International staff from their office were illegal. He said they would open their office later this week and will continue to maintain their presence.

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