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Lae Family Still Living in Tent, One Year after Eviction

In February 2017, John and Lucy Benta’s family were evicted from their nephew’s Cormorant Street home in Lae.

His nephew, Dickson, employed as a health professional, had taken a transfer to East New Britain when the eviction happened in his absence.

The eviction happened months before the elections as did many others.

John’s wife, Lucy, and her daughter were the only ones in the house when armed police and National Housing Corporation Officers forced them to leave.

“The officer from the NHC came and broke the clothes line and tore everything off it. They treated us like criminals.”

The family initially camped beside the fence. Then they were told to leave again. They have since been camping a few metres from where they used to live under a tent made from tarpaulin given by friends and neighbours while the new tenants have taken up residence in their former home.

John said they cannot move because they have begun a court process. His nephew and his in-law have been listed as plaintiffs in what has now become a lengthy court battle to regain possession of the house.

By next month, the family will have spent a year living in the tent waiting for justice to be delivered.

“We could have left a long time ago. But we have a court case that is in progress. My nephew is a plaintiff. The court system is taking so long.”

Living in a tent has not been easy. When the rain comes, the water flows through the tent. Both John, who walks with a limp, and Lucy have developed various health problems. They have also had to move one of their daughters elsewhere after they were threatened several times.

“People have come here at night and stolen our bank cards and ID cards.”

According to John, his nephew is seeing payroll deductions being made from his salary as payments for the house they used to live in. This is a common scenario for many public servants who have been evicted from state properties.

This is just one of many evictions in Lae over the 2017 period. In December, The Lae MP, John Rosso, intervened to assist two families forced out of their homes.

They have since regained possession of their homes. There has also been widespread condemnation of the National Housing corporation’s methods of forcefully evicting tenants.

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