By WILLIE BRUL
TRUCKIES on the Highlands Highway will hold a peaceful protest at Watarais and Markham in Morobe Province starting Monday.
They will prevent all trucks transporting cargo to the Highlands provinces including Eastern Highlands, Simbu and Jiwaka if the government does not respond to their demand to remove roadblocks on the highway quickly.
The truck drivers made an appeal to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Police Commissioner Gari Baki to intervene and clear the roadblocks along the Chuave and Kudjip sections of the highway as many businesses are making losses and people’s lives are also at risk.
Since last Tuesday, relatives and tribesmen of the two police officers who were killed in election-related violence while on official duty in Enga Province during the counting period in July have set up roadblocks in Chuave in Simbu and Kudjip in Jiwaka provinces where the two deceased men hail from.
For almost two weeks more than 50 truck drivers and their crew have stayed in Goroka in Eastern Highlands waiting for the roadblocks to be cleared.
It is alleged that the relatives of the two policemen have demanded the Enga provincial government and the State to pay them a said K28 million compensation.
The roadblocks have severely affected many companies and business houses in Western Highlands, Enga, Southern Highlands and Hela who they depend solely on the Highlands Highway for their daily business operations.
A concerned truckie from Western Highlands said this is a serious issue and the government must intervene quickly because the Highlands Highway is the backbone of the economy of PNG and their employers, truck drivers and business houses in Highlands region were the major taxpayers to the government.
“It is two weeks now and still no assurance or response from the State,” said Rex Tokao, a driver employed by Michael Pano Fuel Services in Mt Hagen.
“Our lives are at risk and often criminals are threatening us at night by attempting to break our containers and take our cargoes and fuel.
“We depend on our trips from Lae to our destinations for our wages and these two weeks we won’t get our wages and our families will have to suffer,”
The roadblocks don’t affect PMVs using the highway but the tribesmen of the two policemen are searching the buses for Engans.