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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 17) - The Ahis, who claim customary ownership over Lae city land, forcefully moved in to occupy a portion of land at the old Lae airport in Papua New Guinea during the weekend.

[PIR editor’s note: Lae is the provincial capital of Morobe on the central north coast of Papua New Guinea’s mainland peninsula.]

The portion of land is within an urban development lease owned by businessman John Buri, the proprietor of Niugini Building Supplies.

About 20 cargo containers belonging to Riback Stevedoring, owned by Ahi Holdings, were trucked to the site during the weekend and piled up to block off the old runway. It also blocks access to the adjourning allotments.

The Ahis, it is understood want the portions behind the Orica building.

Ahi Holdings executive Gareth Kissing would not be drawn to comment on the move.

But he said it was a matter for the landowners, and that a statement would be issued later.

The move, according to observers, is one to attract attention from authorities over alleged on-going corrupt land dealings in the city.

Mr. Buri, the owner of section urban development lease section 358, which contains 16 allotments, is understood to be planning a cause of action to counter the Ahis’ move.

Instead of confronting the Ahis directly, Buri, wants to fulfill the urban development lease requirements to put in place services including power, water, sewerage and roads to the urban development lease. If the Ahi’s try to block these, then he would take court action to enforce his claim.

According to sources, the Ahi’s action may have also pre-empted an agreement between themselves and the Morobe Provincial Government in which the urban development lease owners, upon installing the utilities and services and after five years, would transfer allotments to the Ahi people free of charge.

It was anticipated that the Ahis would get four allotments from Section 358. The dispute over section 358 comes on the back of another involving section 32, awarded to the Morobe Provincial Government, which has 11 allotments (allotments 2-13).

A consultant who was engaged by the Provincial Government to secure the urban development lease has refused to surrender the titles to the Provincial Government and has instead reportedly sold several of the allotments.

One of the allotments was sold in 2004 to the consultant’s business partner, who in turn mortgaged it for a PGK900,000 [US$318,000] loan from ANZ Bank. When he failed to pay the loan, the bank repossessed it and sold it through a public tender.

A supermarket group won the tender with a PGK4 million [US$1.4 million] bid. The group plans to build a supermarket on the land.

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