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To sue government over destruction of property

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 1, 2009) – Porgera landowners plan to sue the Police Force and State for millions of kina in damages for destruction of property by police deployed in the callout.

A letter sent to the Police Commissioner Gari Baki and copied to the Internal Security Minister Sambi Rambi by Paulus Dowa Lawyers yesterday advised they were receiving instructions from the people left homeless by actions of police to act on their behalf.

However, the Acting Deputy Police Commissioner and Chief of Police Operations Raphael Huafolo refuted the Post-Courier report yesterday which claimed more than 300 houses belonging to Porgera landowners were destroyed by policemen.

Mr. Huafolo said about 50 illegal make shift shelters and huts built within the Porgera Special Mining Lease area were destroyed by police in a move to clamp down on the increasing lawlessness and illegal mining activities in Porgera.

A delegation of landowners led by the chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association Mark Ekepa yesterday maintained that the houses burned down by police numbered more than 300 and belonged to second and third generation landowners.

Lawyer Danny Gonol from Paulus Dowa Lawyers when contacted yesterday said the Police Commissioner must intervene and stop further destruction.

The letter said the properties were acquired and constructed with sweat and meagre savings, unfortunately, police officers in the guise of weeding out illegal mining destroyed the properties in a manner that was unacceptable. "The police callout was with one intent and purpose and that is to weed out illegal mining and restore law and order and not to destroy properties and assaulting people ... if anyone is found to be wrong, there are adequate laws to deal with them," Mr. Gonol said.

The letter stated that it is not right for policemen to pre-empt guilt, taking the place of the courts by punishing the people with destruction of properties and bashing and assaulting even during a SOE. Gonol said one of the duties of the police personnel deployed to the area was to protect life and property and "what is happening is something that has to be clarified whether they are upholding their duties as required under the SOE".

He pointed out that among the many acts and damages one senior citizen and businessman Jonathan Paraia lost property located at Section 02, Lot 21 and Section 11, Lot 07 at the hands of the policemen.

Gonol said the firm will be taking the policemen deployed in the SOE, Commissioner Baki and the State to court.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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