14 year term for aircraft burning

The destroyed Air Nuigini Dash 8 at Mendi Airport. Picture: RNZ/Supplied

PORT MORESBY (THE NATIONAL) – Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Minister Alfred Manase says a person who destroys an aircraft in service can be jailed for a maximum of 14 years.

He said invasion of an airport and destruction of property violated a number of laws under the Civil Aviation Act (2000).

“This was indeed a very sad day for civil aviation industry in PNG,” Manase said of Thursday’s burning of a Link PNG aircraft at Mendi Airport, the court complex and Governor William Powi’s house.

“The rioting at the airport was completely unrelated to civil aviation or any of the companies or agencies working in that business and it is deplorable that a significant element of national infrastructure should be attacked.”

He said in addition there were acts of unlawful trespass, security breaches, forcing the crew to disembark the aircraft, attacking the aircraft and destruction and theft of airport property.

“We expect all those involved will be brought to justice and to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said.

“If basic common sense is not given a chance, how are we supposed to progress as a nation? Without the rule of law we cannot have a town, a city or country.”

Manase said the actions of the ring-leaders, whether on the ground or behind the scenes, and the criminals with them, were deplorable.

He condemned their actions and the distasteful pictures of the airport being invaded and an aircraft being destroyed would stay in memory “for a very long time”. Manase said a significant amount of airport assets were also destroyed.

“Recently, it was announced that there would be a K27.8 million (US$8.5 million) upgrade to Mendi Airport with a new terminal and improved pavement,” he said.

“The viability of this project will now have to be seriously reconsidered before work progresses.”

Manase said Mendi Airport would remain closed indefinitely, all operations and activities would cease immediately and staff would be moved to other locations for their safety. Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been informed.

“An attack on our national flag carrier is an attack on our identity as a country,” he said.

“The airports we run in PNG are critical assets for the country that need the assistance of local and the provincial governments to operate effectively,” he said.

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