PNG to criminalise setting up roadblocks

6:16 pm on 18 January 2017

Papua New Guinea parliamentarians are expected to consider new laws that make it a criminal offence to mount a roadblock.

Another trench dug by villagers across the road at Ipae Corner, Aiyak in Laiagam. They are demanding K6
million compensation.

Another trench dug by villagers across the road at Ipae Corner, Aiyak in Laiagam. They are demanding K6 million compensation. Photo: Supplied/ PNG Police

Roadblocks by disgruntled landowner groups seeking compensation for grievances are common in PNG, especially in the Highlands region.

The main Highlands Highway has been described as the lifeline of PNG's economy.

However frequent roadblocks on the highway are increasingly seen as damaging PNG's economic growth.

As such, the government is understood to be considering legislation in next week's parliamentary session to criminalise roadblocks.

Papua New Guinea's busy Highlands Highway.

Papua New Guinea's busy Highlands Highway. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

One anonymous landowner said that roadblocks are sometimes the only form of leverage which grassroots communities have with provincial and national governments which fail to deliver promised development packages.

Meanwhile, the prime minister Peter O'Neill told local media that businesses must be discouraged from paying landowners to remove road blocks even when it is a blockage caused by a landslip.

He said that while he appreciated the good intentions of businesses in doing this, payments to remove blockages can encourage copy-cat behaviour.

It is supposed to be the job of provincial Works teams to clear landslips, although the department is understood to have been under budget constraints for some time.

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