DISGRUNTLED PNG LANDOWNERS ATTACK DIGICEL TOWER

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Highlands clan unhappy about telecom facility

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 25, 2008 ) – Disgruntled landowners of a Digicel tower site in Eastern Highlands province attacked the company’s employees and destroyed properties worth thousands of kina last week.

Among properties destroyed were two diesel generator sets to power a Digicel tower opposite the Telikom repeater site at Mt Otto, near Goroka town, according to police report.

The report stated three members of Sehajuha clan who were part of the group, had been arrested and locked up by police.

Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Supt Teddy Tei confirmed the attack and destruction.

According to Siwi Ahi, a spokesman of the Sogomijuha clan involved in the dispute over land on which the Digicel tower was erected, the problem erupted over ownership of the customary land.

Mr Ahi said Digicel was expected to erect the tower at a land space identified as portion 293 as per an agreement signed.

However, the tower was being erected outside of the portion on customary land.

He said members of Sogomijuha, Lanehajuha and Patlagomise clans alleged the Sehajuha clan conspired with Digicel to erect the tower on a customary land in dispute and had tried unsuccessfully to find an amicable solution.

He said members of the three clans left their village as early as between 3am and 4am last Tuesday.

As soon as they arrived at Mt Otto, they attacked the employees and destroyed properties of Digicel.

Max Mike, a security guard guarding the Telikom facilities at Mt Otto, confirmed the incident saying three communication engineers deployed by Digicel were attacked.

They were repatriated immediately to Mt Hagen where they recovered, according to the guard.

He said apart from the generators, two tents and a refrigerator were burnt down, a grinder machine, eight cement bags, welding machine and other minor equipment and materials were destroyed along with cash and mobile phones stolen from the expatriates.

Attempts to get Digicel employees in Goroka to speak about the incident were unsuccessful.

Over the past few weeks, Digicel has hired a helicopter and had been airlifting materials to Mt Otto to erect the tower.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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