PNG Opposition Leader Dame Kidu Injured At 'Illegal' Demolition

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Paga Hill Settlement land embroiled in ownership dispute

By Sarah Matsushita

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, May 15, 2012) – Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu, who is Papua New Guinea’s only female parliamentarian, was dragged by police at the weekend while protesting against an illegal eviction and partial demolition of Paga Hill Settlement housing about 2,000 residents.

The Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) reported Dame Kidu went to the site on Saturday to investigate claims of demolition and upon arrival was confronted by police.

According to a statement from her daughter, Dobi Kidu, the police "told her she was obstructing justice and two policemen held her by the arms and started dragging her.

"She told them to let her go as they were hurting her only to be shouted at that she was resisting arrest."

Development plans have been in the works by Paga Hill Holdings, which has reportedly claimed a commercial title to the land.

According to activists, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had earlier said the government would not remove residents.

"I am now informed these portions of land were obtained fraudulently including the fringe of land next to the wharf," he said.

Settlement tenants include the government-owned National Housing Corporation, the Police Legacy, National Parks, and Kikori settlers, original residents of land in southern PNG.

The APWLD said it was concerned about the infringements on the right to housing and livelihood of people living there, many of whom are women and children, as well as the attacks on human rights defenders.

The incident follows similar attacks in Kathmandu, Nepal, earlier this week with a demolition of a housing settlement.

"These attacks and infringements on the right to housing and property are attacks on the poor," said Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of APWLD.

"Too often governments are discarding the rights of the poor, most of whom are women, in favor of the interests of corporations."

A court order filed by residents has been successful in suspending the demolition.

However, nearly half of the houses and community buildings of the settlement have already been destroyed.

APWLD is calling on the government to guarantee that the residents will be provided with housing, services and the enjoyment of their economic and social rights, including compensation.

"We also expect to see an investigation into the incident, including the assault on Dame Carol Kidu and the settlers, and attacks on journalists," Lappin said.

The issue will be reported to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing.

APWLD is Asia Pacific’s leading feminist, membership driven network and has 180 members in 25 countries. It holds consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

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