Bougainville President Momis barred from flight
5 June, 2018, 6:30 pm
BUKA – Disgruntled service providers in Bougainville Monday forced the closure of the Buka airport when they barred their President John Momis from boarding an aircraft for Port Moresby.
Air Niugini’s PX253 on which an official ABG delegation and him were supposed to travel for a three-day referendum seminar in Port Moresby was diverted instead to Tokua Airport in East New Britain.
The service providers fronted up at the airport where they demanded an answer from Momis on their outstanding payments.
Airport officials fearing for the safety of passengers and the Air Niugini aircraft diverted it and did not allow any other flights into Buka during the day due to the tense situation.
Former combatant leader Ishmael Toroama, who turned up at the airport, expressed his disappointment at the service providers saying such issues must be dealt with in the proper manner and there should be respect shown to the ABG.
In Buka ABG officials denied that gunshots heard over the weekend in the Kokopau area were from service providers.
There were no comments on the gunshots as police were still meeting to ascertain the truth or otherwise of the reports.
At the Buka airport the terminal was packed with service providers who arrived in a truck and parked on the tarmac.
Police later removed the truck when they moved in to take control of the situation.
The group was assured by Members of the ABG travelling with President Momis that a letter of guarantee would be drafted and signed within the hour for the immediate release of K15,000 (US$4,613) to pay them from a K35,000 (US$10,766) grant from the National Government.
Momis’s delegation included Joseph Watawi, Francesca Semoso, Robin Wilson, Albert Punghau and Fidelis Semoso.
They were to travel for today’s seminar on the referendum at the National Research Institute, of which the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was scheduled to officially open.
In Buka, government offices were closed when staff in fear for their safety left for home while businesses and shops operated as normal.