Landowners Threaten To Close Bougainville, PNG Airport

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Buka group claims $2 million of unpaid compensation owed them

By Winterford Toreas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 13, 2014) – Landowners of the area encompassing the Buka Airport in Bougainville have issued a warning to the Lands Department in Port Moresby to immediately release the outstanding K5 million [US$2 million] compensation claim for the usage of their land to accommodate the airport.

According to their spokesman and chairman of the Rungunahan Incorporated Land Group (ILG) Herman Tugan, they want the Lands Department to deliver the money to them before Friday this week.

Mr Tugan boldly said if they do not get this money, they will have no other option but to close the airport on Friday.

He said they will only reopen the airport upon receiving payment.

Their stand was made known during a meeting the landowners held yesterday with representatives from police, Air Niugini, and the manager of the local security firm that is contracted to provide security at the airport.

The meeting was held at Mr Tugan’s residence, which is situated near the Buka airport.

The landowners decided to take this stand after learning of the arrest of Mr Tugan and three other youth leaders at Jackson’s Airport in the nation’s capital last week.

Mr Tugan had travelled to Port Moresby accompanied by these three youth leaders last week following an invitation from the Lands Department to sign some documents which would then pave the way for the release of funds to the landowners through their ILG.

However, upon stepping out of the terminal they were approached by some policemen who said that they had received reports from Buka that the group of Bougainvilleans were armed with a pistol.

Mr Tugan and the youth leaders said they were then taken to Boroko police station where they were further interrogated before being locked up at the police cell for about three hours.

The landowners believed that this plot was made to disturb Mr Tugan from signing the deeds for the release of payment.

They are now calling on those responsible to immediately release payment or they will close the airport.

The Post-Courier understands that there are two landowner groups from Ieta village that are claiming to be the rightful landowners and should be given the compensation payments.

One of the groups, Rungunahan Incorporated Land Group is chaired by Mr Tugan while the other is led by another prominent leader from the area.

It is understood that the leader of this second group arrived in Buka from Port Moresby yesterday and also held a meeting with his members; however this newspaper was not able to get details of their discussions.

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