Angry Villagers Ransom PNG Border Authority Vehicle

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Wutung villagers frustrated by slow development along border

By Haiveta Kivia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 28, 2013) – A motor vehicle belonging to Papua New Guina’s Border Development Authority (BDA) was seized by angry villagers on the PNG-Indonesian International Border at Wutung, West Sepik Province, yesterday.

The vehicle, a Toyota Hilux, that was seized, will be returned this Friday to the authority if the Wutung villagers are satisfied with the outcome of meetings it will hold with authority, Sandaun Provincial Administration and other relevant agencies.

Unhappy Wutung villagers seized the vehicles to show their frustration in the slow implementations of the social components of the border development project, land compensation and other government oriented issues.

In 2011, the authority started rehabilitating and construction of the Wutung Border Station and the social component of the project was to build water and sanitation and health facilities. Houses to house government officers from the authority, Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Papua New Guinea Customs, Police, Defence Force and the National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority have already being built.

But, it has taken two years to build the social component of the project.

Former Deputy Governor of Sandaun Provincial Government and Wutung villager Patrick Muliale told Post Courier that the vehicle will be returned once they are really satisfied.

Mr. Muliale said this action is to send a clear message to the border authority to fast track the social component projects and to the Minister concerned and the Prime Minister that they can’t be taken for granted any longer.

BDA’s Operations Director Barnabas Neausemale explained that the slowness in building the water and sanitation, and the health facilities were due to design and project scope alterations, and other social problems.

Mr. Neausemale said there were some differences between the villagers of the sites were some of the facilities are to be located or built and that needed sorting out first before they build.

He said the initial plan was to build the sanitation (toilets) facilities for the villagers but it was discovered that the existing water supply had deteriorated, and needed upgrading.

"Upon thorough inspections, it was found that many of the old pipes had rusted and were broken, and needed to be replaced," he said.

He added the dam for water source also needed fixing and upgrading.

He said the site for the health facility is also disputed and that need sorting out.

Mr. Neausemale said the materials to build the facilities have being lying idle at Wutung, for the last two years, awaiting all the issues to be sorted out.

Mr. Muliale countered that assertions made by Mr. Neausemale were not true.

He said the slackness of officers on the ground was the true factor in the social components not being developed.

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