Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wau situation update

Watuts and Biangais to meet peace committee


 Watut and Biangai tribes meet with a peace-negotiating committee in Wau and Bulolo tomorrow over the recent violence which left two people dead, several injured, houses and property destroyed, and forced the temporary shutdown of the Hidden Valley gold mine and the evacuation of employees.

The committee is headed by provincial chairman for law and order Benson Suang and comprises acting provincial administrator Patilias Gamato, Bulolo district administrator Nemsin Kibisep, provincial police commander Peter Guiness, Reverend Gedisa Okomaisa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG and provincial legal officer Kipireng Kevere.

Bulolo MP Sam Basil will also be in attendance.

“What we will do is to meet the Biangais in Wau, and then we’ll meet the Watuts in Bulolo,” Mr Gamato said today.

“We’ve asked the leaders to bring in the grievances they have.

“We’ll talk to them separately at first, and later in the week, we’ll bring the two parties together.”

Mr Guiness today travelled ahead of other committee members to Wau.

“The situation up there is quite,” he said before leaving.

“We’ve told both tribes to lay down their arms and put together their list of demands, which they will present when they meet with authorities.”

Mr Gamato also denied widely-circulating rumours that the peace-negotiating committee would make some declarations over ownership of Wau town land

“There are rumours that this committee will make some declarations in relation to the Wau town land,” he said.

“What I want to say is that it’s not the responsibility of this committee to declare land.

“The responsibility to declare land is vested with the land court or the courts, and so what we will be basically doing is to invite both sides to provide any court documents in relation to court cases over Wau towns, or any land in relation to the mining operations at Hidden Valley.

“The peace committee will interpret the court decision and inform the relevant parties.

“We are also going to look at government files, dig out old court orders, and properly inform the people so that there is no confusion as to land ownership.”

The March 20 and 21 violence came just before Hidden Valley is to pour its first gold, and resulted in the temporary closure of the mine.

A long-standing land dispute between Biangai and Watut tribes over ownership of the 2076 hectare McAdam National Park between Wau and Bulolo came to a head as the Watuts gathered in Wau in their hundreds and staged an early morning attack on the Biangai villages.

The Biangai villages around Wau comprise of Wandumi, Kaisenik, Kwembu, Biaweng, Ilauru, Were Were and Winima while the Watut villages stretch all the way from Wau to the border with Menyamya,

A Watut man was allegedly killed recently by Biangais over a gold-bearing piece of land on the national park, which is said to have sparked the tension.


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