PNG Villagers Block Highlands Highway At Kainantu; Demand Compensation

Governor declares action illegal; police set to arrest protestors

By Luke Kama

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 3, 2017) – The Government has reminded villagers blocking the Highlands Highway at Kainantu in Eastern Highlands that their action is illegal and police will arrest them.

Works Secretary David Wereh told The National yesterday that the people needed to understand that national roads belonged to the public and not to any clan or tribe even though the roads ran through their traditional land.

“It’s a public asset. Even the Department of Works doesn’t own the roads in the country. It belong to the people, the road users. We are just custodians of the State managing the roads,” Wereh said.

Members of the Anku’Aintenu Landowner Group from the Agarabi local level government are demanding K85 million [US$26 million] from the Government as compensation for the use of the land for the highway.

Yesterday, they felled trees and put old vehicles to block traffic at six different places along the 4.5km road between Bane and 4-Mile bridge.

The group represents seven villages – Aga’anantu, Kainantu One, Kainantu Two, Kainawa One, Kainawa Two, Kelimapara and Omunayo.

They claim that the Government had failed to pay any compensation for the land since 1953.

They vowed to keep it closed until they received a satisfactory answer from the Government on their compensation demand.

They want K50 mil [US$15 million] paid now and K35 mil [US$11 million] later.

Wereh said the Highlands Highway belonged to the public and no group of people or clan should block it and disrupt the smooth flow of goods and services.

“It is not right and it is very bad to behave in such a manner,” Wereh said.

He said he could find not anything in their letter to substantiate their demand for K85 million.

“If they want, they can go to the court to justify their claims for the State to pay them. They can seek legal redress and that’s what we have told our lawyers to do,” Wereh said.

He said they had already informed Police Commissioner Gari Baki about the matter to advise police officers on the ground to clear the roadblock.

“The compensation culture must have basis. We can’t just pay people for nothing. There must be some kind of cause and effect for what we shall we pay,” Wereh said.

“There is no cause, there is no effect, and it’s a law and order issue now.

“We have reported to the (police) commissioner to advise his men on the ground to clear the highway and arrest those who committed this criminal act.”

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