A controversial resettlement in PNG's capital cops flak
Resettlement in PNG's capital is facing major problems as government cops flak.
A controversial resettlement of squatters in Papua New Guinea's capital is facing major problems and the government is copping the flak.
The Paga Hill area has been a squatter settlement since the mid-1990s when a National Housing Corporation site was decommissioned.
Now as a development company is moving squatters from the property, a former MP says resettlement is complex.
Alex Perrottet reports.
The former MP, Dame Carol Kidu made a bold statement two years ago when she confronted men demolishing squatters homes in Paga Hill. She was frog marched from the site by police, and the company, Paga Hill Development, then faced a backlash over their handling of the situation. But in February, a court order finally gave squatters 45 days to move from the land.The group lost their appeal last Friday and were given until Tuesday to move. The PNG police spokesperson Dominic Kakas praised the company for providing transport as well as a new destination.
DOMINIC KAKAS: The company actually provided about 20 trucks, they provided about 70 men also and they provided bags as well, which is something new. And for PNG this is the first time this ever happened. And the people have actually not been evicted, as we have done in previous eviction exercises.
Dame Carol says there's too much negativity about the company, which has already paid millions for the resettlement.
DAME CAROL KIDU: As far as I know it went smoothly. Considering that no other company has done anything like this before, I think there should be less criticism. It's nowhere near perfect and there's very complex reasons why it's nowhere near perfect.
But Dr Kristian Lasslett, from the International State Crime Initiative, says residents have a different version of events. He says eye witnesses allege police and other men arrived, armed with bush knives and axes, but Mr Kakas defended them.
DOMINIC KAKAS: There was no force involved, we didn't force anyone out of there. We talked to them and they willingly moved out. If they saw axes and bush knives, they were brought in to chop down the trees and the growth, vegetation on that hill.
Dame Carol says the real issue is how to deal with the situation at Six Mile, where customary land is being used to settle the residents. She says it's a complex situation, with tenants fearful of any plan to establish a contract to clear up their legal status.
DAME CAROL KIDU: I had a meeting yesterday afternoon, very frustrating, a very volatile meeting, but you know, eventually we're going to have to get a system in place. So they're saying, 'no we're not going to pay any form of rent to the landowner' well I'm sorry, the landowner, their only asset is the land. And some of these people came from places where they have oil and gold and they have, you know. So we're trying to get some sanity into it.
Some of the residents at Paga Hill are public servants, who were heritage tenants of the National Housing Corporation. Ian Jinga, the Director General of the National Security Advisory Committee, has praised the Paga Hill Company for coming up with a solution, but slammed the NHC for negligence
IAN JINGA: It's a proper negligence on the part of the National Housing Corporation, they have let their tenants down and its a total blunder and a shame that they cannot look after their own tenants.
Dame Carol says she is bringing together government officials and landowners with tenants at Six Mile and is working on a document, but many are not keen to sign it. She says a solution to land problems in Port Moresby is something the Government should have done long ago, but says even in her time in Parliament, officials threw it in the 'too hard basket'.
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