By ALPHONSE BARIASI
Waiting time for a K1.3 million payment for the destroyed crop has now extended into a second year and still there is no firm commitment from former Agriculture Minister and Bogia MP John Hickey and Department of Agriculture and Livestock Secretary Anton Benjamin.
The cocoa pod borer (CPB) disease was first discovered in the Boroi village in April 2008 and later at Kayan, Gamai, Damur, Garik and Kabuk villages.
Upon discovering the disease which was by then also prevalent in the Gazelle Peninsular, government agencies decided to cut down all diseased trees as well as all other cocoa trees and indigenous fruit trees.
In the process, 146,000 cocoa trees were chopped down and the villages' primary source of income was taken away.
They were promised:
* K1.3 million compensation for the loss of trees (to plot owners) and loss of business (to fermentry owners);
* Replacement hybrid seedlings for all trees cut;
* School fee assistance in 2008 and 2009; and
* Medical supplies to aid posts in the area.
The K1.3 million was arrived at by counting the number of trees and the number of bags produced by each cocoa dryer in a year.
All these were to have been settled in a year but that never happened. A submission was made to the DAL office in Madang and after more than a year, no response by concerned government agencies was given to the Kamkabe people.
The villagers confronted their local MP and Agriculture Minister John Hickey on two separate occasions in the electorate and he told them to "go see Anton Benjamin (DAL Secretary) because I don't know anything about it."
Following a meeting of villagers, spokesman Bobbies Karbain took it upon himself to travel to Port Moresby to see the Secretary.
Mr Karbain arrived in the city on January 28 but has been given a run around by the Secretary's office and had to spend almost a month in Port Moresby and was finally able to see Mr Benjamin on February 23.
Mr Karbain had also been to the Prime Minister's office which in turn directed the DAL to address the villagers' claim.
"I have no relatives here but fortunately, a friend of mine has provided me accommodation. I was living on bread and water these weeks," Mr Karbain told this reporter.
Secretary Benjamin said he was aware of the villagers demand for payment for loss of income. He also told Mr Karbain that there was money allocated for it but the process to get it was long and slow.
Mr Karbain has been directed to consult the provincial DAL office in Madang to follow up on the case.
He said however, that there was also an option to go to court over the matter if the department was slow or reluctant to pay.
"We have approached our MP who was Minister for Agriculture but he was not very helpful; maybe he took us as simple, ignorant people," said Mr Karbain.
The Secretary's office did not respond to questions regarding the matter faxed to his office on Wednesday.