THE RECENT destruction of 24 electricity power pylons along the Angula River-Mendi section of the Highlands Highway by angry landowners over outstanding land compensation claims has been condemned by the Member for Imbongu Francis Awesa who also wants the culprits to pay for the damages.
Mr Awesa said he did not support the criminal actions and behavior of people who resorted to destroying vital public infrastructure and services including electricity power supply.
He expressed grave concern that the power outage had affected amoung others:
- The use of five recently installed computers at Yombi Primary School at a cost of over K45,000. It was organised by a young engineer from the area John Kongri who successfully negotiated for New Zealand Government funding;
- Two other community schools in the area;
- Provision of vital health services at Pokrapugl Health centre;
- Churches and community based services; and
- Others including trading and small business.
Mr Awesa said as a result of such irresponsible and criminal action of hooligans, business houses in Mendi town and others lost thousands of kina.
"It is very stupid because the power supply destruction almost caused innocent lives of patients who were on drip and other life-saving equipment at the Mendi General Hospital.
"It was sheer luck that the hospital standby generator was able to operate saving lives of many patients at the hospital," he explained.
Mr Awesa said as direct consequences of the illegal actions of a group of people millions of kina worth of property have been destroyed.
"We must not tolerate such behavior. People responsible have to pay for it. One way is for PNG Power to liaise directly with the Works Department to pay for the destroyed pylons before any land compensation is made for land claims.
"What is owed to the people should first go towards meeting the cost of the destroyed power pylons then the remainder can be paid to the people," he suggested.
As a token of commitment to restoring power supply, Mr Awesa moved quickly to get K150,000 from Ialibu Basin Local Level Government funds and gave PNG Power to restore electricity power supply through the route of the old highlands from Ialibu to Kumbame.
Mr Awesa also commended PNG Power Mendi Branch Manager Paul Gonapa for responding swiftly deciding in consultation with his superiors for the alternate Ialibu-Kumbame route.
The MP also urged to support the work of PNG Power staff to restoring electricity power supply with the minimum of delay so that business houses, schools, health services, churches and others can continue to operate.