by Mickey Kavera – EM TV, Port Moresby
The Nipa Kutubu district in the Southern Highlands province has become the first district besides the National Capital District (NCD) to reclaim all state properties.
On Thursday last week more than 100 families were issued immediate vacancy notices from state houses and state land they have been occupying for some years to make way for development.
The move was led by the local Member of Parliament Jeffrey Komal and the district administration, while the legal team led by Ninkama Lawyers were present in the district to prepare the notices and serve to the illegal residents to move out within two weeks.
Members of the disciplinary forces engaged in special LNG operations in the Southern Highlands evicted people who had been issued eviction notices two weeks earlier.
Hon Komal said the people must immediately vacate the state houses and land they occupy or be forcefully removed, with their illegal structures demolished.
Many tenants have lived there for over 25 years, while others lived on state land even before independence 39 years ago.
Most of them are retired public servants who continued to live on state land with their grown children and grandchildren.
Mr Komal said those illegally residing in the state land have no choice but to make way for his administration to build new houses for public servants and construct other important government facilities and programs.
He said under the national government’s rural focused policy, his district administration needs land to develop and build new houses with the national government’s district housing program of K1 million, the provincial government’s allocation of K500,000 and his Joint District Budget Priority Committee allocation of another K500,000.
So far, the district has seen unprecedented change, with new buildings and other major transformational changes like the sealing of district town roads, new district houses and the construction of a new hospital after 37 years.
Soon after the eviction, deputy district administrator John Harisol has called on district public servants living in Port Moresby to return, as there will be housing made available for them.
Meanwhile, Mr Harisol told tenants during the issuance of the eviction notices that a search through the National Housing Commission and the Lands Departments has indicated that no-one has title over any property in the district.
Local leader John Hembe, Nipa President John Titus and youth leader Benson Lol told the people that for the good of future generations and the development the people, they have no choice but to leave the state land.
Those who were told to move said they respected the MP and the government authorities and will quietly move as they do not have any titles over the houses and land they occupy.
Another tenant of 25 years said he was an illegal tenant and demolished his colonial home as advised by the district administration, removing it instead to his home village.
As of Wednesday, illegal tenants have packed up cargoes and voluntarily moved out of state houses as the district administration and security forces walked around issuing eviction notices.
Mr Komal said the exercise will continue in the other sub-districts of Poroma, Kutubu and Mt Bosave to remove illegal people squatting on state land and reclaim all state properties.
The move is the first in the country to pave the way for development under the O’Neill-Dion government’s rural focus policy and the construction of ten houses nationwide annually.
Governor William is also in the process of evicting illegal structures and illegal occupants in Mendi and other districts.