Monday, March 23, 2009

Wau situation quite, but tense, after two days of violence

The situation in Wau, Morobe province, remains tense but quite after the violence of last Friday and Saturday which saw two people killed, several injured, houses and property destroyed and the temporary shutdown of Hidden Valley gold mine and the evacuation of employees.
This was independently confirmed today (Monday) by Bulolo MP Sam Basil, district administrator Nemsin Kibisep, Bulolo-based police mobile squad (MS) 15 commander Michael Tilae and a Morobe Mining Joint Venture spokesman.
A mobile squad from Port Moresby is guarding the mine as local mine employees from either Watut or Biangai villages left for their own security
The Morobe provincial executive council was in a meeting for most of today to discuss the urgency of the situation and approve funding to assist those displaced after Watut villagers attacked Biangai villages last Friday and Saturday.
Mr Basil and other leaders will again travel to the affected areas tomorrow (Tuesday) to continue to broker peace among the warring factions.
“After the last two days of meeting with people from both sides, the Watuts and the Biangais, the situation has started to calm down,” Mr Kibisep said from Bulolo.
“Over the weekend, up until Sunday, we had the involvement of Bulolo MP Sam Basil, Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, Menyamya MP Benjamin Philip, provincial administrator Patilias Gamato, provincial police commander Peter Guiness, and all the local level government presidents of Bulolo.
“The purpose of the meetings at the weekend was to get both sides to lay down their arms and come to a roundtable discussion.
“Both sides have taken the message on board and laid down their arms.
“We’ve also given both groups seven days to identify the reasons they are fighting, especially the Watuts.”
Mr Kibisep said two people had been confirmed killed, the number of injured was unknown, while the whole village of Kaisenik and parts of Kwembu were burned down.
MS15 commander Mr Tilae said from Wau police were in the Biangai villages today helping dislocated people to come out of hiding in the bushes.
“Things are quite but I shouldn’t compromise on that,” he said.
A spokesman for MMJV, operators of Hidden Valley, said from Lae the mine re-opened on Sunday.
“Hidden Valley is back to normal despite the tension and problems,” he said.
“Contractors returned to the site on Sunday and this morning.
“The only people not on site are those local employees, who are from either Biangai or Watut.
“We had to temporarily suspend operations when the trouble flared up last Friday and Saturday.
“Otherwise, the situation is still sensitive, so we have to handle things in a very-sensitive manner.”

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