NOOSA - In early May, Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape seemed to move with lightning speed to stop a developer evicting residents and destroying homes at Port Moresby’s ATS settlement.
It was an illusion. The bulldozers moved in this morning.
The ATS land at 8 Mile in Port Moresby was traditionally owned by three Koari men who, in 1995, gave their consent to settlers from Oro Province to live on the land.
They were soon joined by migrants from many other parts of PNG, many of whom are unemployed and experience serious financial hardship.
In 2008, according to the Department of Lands, title was given to Dunlavin Limited, a Chinese development company. The circumstances were suspicious, as they so often are when it comes to urban land in PNG.
There was a long court battle and title was eventually awarded to Dunlavin, which three months ago received a court order to evict people living on Portion 695 of the land.
The bulldozers moved in, catching the settlers unawares. A compromise was reached allowing them time to remove their possessions – including their houses.
“We helped to build a house there for my wife’s family 10 years ago,” I was told. “It was a much better investment than paying bride price.
“I was assured the family had been given the land title by a former owner, an uncle who was a surveyor.
“Last week we had to help my wife’s family buy tools to dismantle the house before it was flattened.”
Another source told me: “It is corruption at play - politicians, Lands Department bureaucrats and pimps are united in this saga."
The stay of demolition allowed a few days for people to dismantle their houses without them being destroyed.
The people in this home have been fortunate enough to be offered another site from friends nearby where they it will be reassembled.
“The police said they would allow time for high covenant buildings to be taken down in an orderly manner rather than just be bulldozed,” a contact told me.
“I don’t envy them the work, but family and friends have rallied around to help.”
The frame came was taken apart yesterday.
The political promises to assist these people fell apart long ago.