Lihir Secondary School (LSS) in New Ireland province has fought back by locking up 10 members of Ahot clan in police cells who had placed ‘gorgor’ (taboo leaves) at the school’s various entry spots last Thursday.
The ‘gorgor’ placements effectively forced the school to suspend classes that day and continued into Friday,even this week is uncertain whether classes will resume at LSS.
LSS total enrolment is at 778 students comprising 320 Gr. 9s, 212 Gr.10s, 144 Gr.11s, and 102 Gr. 12s.
LSS authorities including Principal Willie Moab and Board Chairman, Gabriel Tukas closed communications with the media.
Lihir police station commander(PSC) Inspector Benson Pae confirmed with this reporter that the 10 clan members were picked up by the visiting members of the Tomaringa based police mobile squad in a marked Newcrest Mining Limited (NML) vehicle at about 6:30pm last Thursday and were brought to the Lihir police station.
Insp. Pae said the clan members were charged under the Summary Offences Act (SOA) with one count each of “unlawfully on premises” and each was placed on a K500 police bail – which all did (bailout) on Friday.
He said LSS was the complainant in this matter. The 10 will appear in Lihir district court on March 19. Their matter could not be heard sooner due to the National Court sitting in Lihir which is sharing the same building.
The LSS saga stemmed from a serious long lasting sewage over-flow problem at school which the Lihir environmental health inspector, Mr. Oberth Fiwayeh has given notices of closure – not once but twice before; Mar 20, 2015 and Nov 06, 2018 respectively.
Sewage over-flows into the adjacent Tovol creek where locals use for drinking, bathing and gaming. Even the wild life is affected.
LOs Lihir Secondary: Ahot clan traditional landowners of LihirSecondary School; Mr. Henry Mis Tangor (L) and Tokonai Kenny Boas (R) withyoung clansman, Mr. Brian Kenny (back) speaking to the media last week. Pic byCYRIL GARE.
“Inspections were carried out on terms where complaint raised by the natives due to overflow of sewage into their long sustaining creek contaminating the water and every creature. There commendations on permanent solution to avoid future issues were not considered by the concerned authorities therefore same issues keep on happening,”Mr. Fiwayeh stated in his letter to the school’s management and board - calling for urgent remedial actions or face closure.
“Bacteriological results indicate high level of Total Coliform and Ecoli. The Results from Laboratory analysis is 2419ppm per 100mL is above the standard 200 Faecal Coliform per 100mL. The presence of these bacteria in drinking water or fresh water signify the water source is defective or that there may be problems with the treatment plant,” an independent assessment report by Niolam Environmental Services Limited also revealed.
Last week, NML operator of Lihir gold mine, sent in a backhoe to dig a new sewage pond for the school.
However, Ahot clan leader, Mr.Tokonai Kenny Boas appeared and halted the work claiming “trespassing” on customary land. This prompted LSS principal, Mr. Moab to call police who apprehended Boas.
Landowners retaliated by demanding police to bring in the school principal at the police station where their “custom” demands were presented; principal to pay five ‘mis’ (traditional shell money), one pig and K5,000 as compensation for locking up their clan leader.
The Ahots also demanded K600,000 compensation for environmental pollution - both demands to be met within seven days which lapsed last Thursday and the consequent ‘gorgor’ placements.
The clan said LSS was established in 1999 because of Boas and his brother, Henry Mis Tangor who consented to out of “good will.
Since then, the school has not acquired official recognition of the land as State acquisition nor has it applied for a land title or entered into any binding agreement with traditional landowners.
NML, on the other the hand, is putting notices around the area claiming that the land where the LSS is situated in inside the Lease for Mining Purposes (LMP) 34.
Ahot clan has since refuted NML’s claim saying LMP 34 boundary ends at the foot of Landolam hill about a kilometre away – maintains that the school is built on traditional land.