PNG PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR GETS ‘WARM’ RECEPTION

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Angry Simbu constituents flip, burn Garia’s car

By Mohammad Bashir PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 19, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea, Simbu Governor Father John Garia got more than he bargained for when he visited Goglme in Gembogl district during the independence weekend. His Toyota land cruiser was chopped in the fuel tank before being set a light by angry locals who have had to live with the deteriorating road condition for the last five years.

[PIR editor's note: Gembogl is located in the Simbu Province of PNG, close to the geographic center of the country. Kundiawa is the provincial capital.]

Garia, who was accompanied by newly elected Kundiawa –Gembogl MP Tobias Kulang, reportedly got a shock of his life and had to hop in a police escort car back to Kundiawa. According to the local Catholic parish priest, Mathew Maima who was at the scene, the people of Gembogl wanted to vent their frustration over the neglect of their road in the last five years.

"The people here say they cast 80 percent of Fr. Garia’s votes in the last election hoping that their road would be upgraded. What they have done is a show of frustration to protest the governor’s inaction over their situation," Fr. Maima said.

During the time of late former Governor Fr. Louis Ambane, 20 million kina [US$6.4 million] was committed for the maintenance and upgrade of the Gembogl road but to date, it is not known what has happened to the money. Late member for Kundiawa-Gembogl Joe Mek Teine had also made commitments to rebuild the road before his death.

The people of this mountainous district including tourists who frequent Mount Wilhelm have had to endure the uncompromising road condition. Maima said it was a culmination of frustration over the years that have led to the burning of the governor’s vehicle. Traditionally, Gembogl people are regarded as most peace loving people in the province with no records of tribal warfare or other major criminal activities. But a bad road is making them angry.

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