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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Manus Residents Close Airport Over Asylum Concerns
Locals demand opportunities for Australian facility contracts

By Jason Gima Wuri and Gorethy Kenneth

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 14, 2012) – Landowners on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea still want their grievances sorted out over their share of financial package for hosting the processing centre for Australia’s boat people or asylum-seekers after staging a peaceful protest last Friday.

Their grievances have resulted in the closure of Momote airport last night.

Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin said the landowners presented a petition to the provincial administration which was supposed to be dealt with on Monday.

He told the Post Courier from Manus on Monday that the landowners have protested over their initial demand of K100 million [US$47.8 million], the total package for Manus Provincial and PNG Government.

He said the locals wanted contracts associated with the detention centre project to be awarded to the locals so that they can benefit as well.

"The administration will sit down with the landowners tomorrow (Tuesday) and go through all the things they have put down in their petition. I am saying they are good demands but they have to be reasonable and workable, not something that they will dream about."

Mr. Benjamin said he is optimistic that the Manus administration and the leaders will come up with an amicable solution.

Just when both governments thought everything was in place – the landowners still have an issue with these packages and the K100 million for projects and contracts.

Recently, the Australian Government announced an AU$8 million [US$8.3 million] program and projects that would benefit the Manus islanders. They have also announced that there are more benefits for the islanders.

However due to the slow response by the Manus administration, it has led to the landowners of Los Negros Local Level Government shutting down the airport for work associated with the asylum-seekers’ processing centre.

On Monday a group of landowners placed safety cones and baggage trolleys on the island's airport runway.

The action has forced the cancellation of flights from Port Moresby.

The Lombrum people and other landowners are planning to taking legal action to stop the setting up of the processing center if their demands are not met.

Other actions they plan to take are to block the Seadler Harbor; Momote airport, road through Loniu village to Momote; electricity to Lorengau and naval base and the refugee processing centre.

Spokesman Porou Papi said they took the action to block the airport because the provincial government has not responded to their petition for contracts.

"We will not remove the cone markers and the trolleys until the Governor come and see us," he said.

But Governor Benjamin said police have been sent to clear the runway and he was supposed to meet with the landowners yesterday.

Under Australia's new immigration laws, asylum seekers who arrive by boat will be sent to Nauru or Manus for processing.

PNG Post-Courier:
Copyright 2012 PNG Post-Courier. All Rights Reserved.

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