|Image of houses burning taken this week – photos provided by the Akali Tange Association.|
see background of this crisis (as of April 27) here.
MORE than 300 houses belonging to local landowners near the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province, have been torched allegedly by policemen called out to restore law and order in the district.
Yesterday, chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association Mark Ekepa arrived in Port Moresby with a delegation to meet the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and withdraw their support.
Police Commissioner Gari Baki when contacted yesterday said he was not aware of the torching and was yet to be briefed by the Operation Ipili commander.
Assistant Commissioner Raphael Huafolo said communication breakdown between Porgera and Port Moresby had caused difficulties in getting updates from the commander.
Lagaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala said yesterday he pushed for the SOE after requests from landowners to clamp down on lawlessness in the area.Mr Kikala said police had their commander where control and command was supposed to come from. He will meet the landowners today.
Barrick Gold could not be reached yesterday for comments.
Mr Ekepa said because the SOE was not serving its purpose they will call for the withdrawal of personnel and investigations to be conducted into the matter.
He claimed police had burned 309 homes since Operation Ipili started. He claimed the policemen were not sent in to protect the landowners and the villagers from lawlessness, tribal fighting, crime and illegal mining.
“This houses burnt are not homes of illegal settlers, these houses belong to the second and third generation landowners who were not thought of by the National Government and Barrick Gold in their relocation plan in 1989,” Mr Ekepa said. Many of those left homeless were three of the seven landowner clans - Tieni Wuape, Tieni Waigolo and Tieni Lakima - in Porgera. The delegation claimed in a joint statement that the SOE was targeting innocent people and not the trouble makers.
They called on Mr Kikala, Mr Baki, Barrick Gold and the National Government to explain police action. Mr Ekepa said: “There is no co-ordination between local police, village court officials, landowner association, district officials and village leaders in the area and there is no command and control in the SOE.”