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Volcano refugees not wanted on mainland

By Malum Nalu PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 10, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea, Manam islanders displaced by the recent volcanic eruptions over the festive period may find it hard to be resettled.

[PIR editor’s note: Manam Island is located in the Bismarck Sea from the northeast coast of mainland Papua New Guinea. Bogia is a district situated on the northwest of Madang Province.]

This is because landowners on Bogia on the mainland where three Care Centers for displaced islanders totaling about 14,000 do not want any more refugees.

Only about 3,000 people remain back on the volcanic island.

The three care centers, Potsdam, Mangem and Asuramba are at the site of three former plantations.

Potsdam landowner Raymond Brossueau told The National last Friday that the three plantations had been bought by a former Bogia Member of Parliament Tim Ward and sold to the state to be converted into Care centers for displaced islanders without the consent of the traditional landowners.

Former politician and Madang businessman Sir Peter Barter confirmed the plight of the islanders and added that it was a "national disgrace" which would be heard by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, in May as the government continued to turn a blind eye to it.

Sir Peter also confirmed the animosity of the mainland people towards the islanders because of their land and suggested that the government, which had failed miserably to consult them first before allowing their land to be used as Care centers, compensate them.

Brossueau said there had been major eruptions in 1997, 2004 and over the recent festive period but unlike 1997, when Manam islanders only stayed for a short time, they had settled at Bogia permanently since 2004.

"In terms of the Manam settlement, the governments know the land belongs to the people and needs to be given back, Brossueau said. The government told us that after five years, they would be resettled elsewhere. Since then, nothing has happened."

There have been massive social problems, including fighting and murders, since 2004 at the three Care centers as tensions flared between landowners and Manam islanders.

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