Evicted widows from Lae’s Igam Army Barracks resort to makeshift camp

by Bethanie Harriman – EM TV, Lae

Widows of the ex-soldiers evicted from Lae’s Igam Barracks have spoken out on being evicted after more than 60 years living in the barracks.

Most of the women are widows to Defence Force soldiers deployed during the Bougainville Crisis; they are still waiting for outstanding entitlements owed to their deceased husbands.

Together with their children and grandchildren, they are now camping outside the Igam Army Barracks front gate.

It has been a week since the families of ex-servicemen were evicted from Lae’s Igam Barracks. Today, they still live in makeshift tents outside the front gate. Food is cooked out in the open and water collected from a nearby creek is used for cleaning.

Bertha Apu gave EM TV a glimpse into the lives of the families now camping. The 50-year-old widow’s belongings are out on the grass, with some under the canvas where they sleep. She keeps her valuables in the tent; she picked through her things, showing her valued items.

Bertha’s daughter and grandchildren sit inside the tent. The grandchildren have already become ill and the mother has taken them to hospital for treatment. Following the rain last night, Bertha’s grandchildren are already showing symptoms of malaria. The hard reality of the family’s plight is that they are stranded after being evicted while waiting for their father’s outstanding entitlements.

The family’s concerns remain the same; they want to go back to their home provinces with their father’s entitlements or receive assistance in travelling out. It is understood that the Igam Barracks hierarchy had ordered the eviction of the 18 families late last week.

Most of them have been living in the barracks for over 15 years after the ex-soldiers retired.

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