The Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, said immediate action is needed to repair sections of the Highlands Highway and to have a proper design and construction approach for the length of the highway.
He said the National Executive Council will discuss declaring emergency and call-out for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Engineering Battalion to make urgent road repairs and upgrades.
PM O’Neill made the announcement during an unannounced personal inspection of the highway from Mendi to Lae over the first weekend of the New Year.
He has further issued a stern warning to contractors to do their job properly or face legal consequences.
“The time for talk is over, we have had enough consultation and negotiation and people who use the highway expect action,” PM O’Neill said after the inspection.
“I have seen with my own eyes the problems that continue to undermine the movement of people and goods along the Highlands Highway.
“I am extremely disappointed that critical sections of the road are not maintained and this needs to be addressed immediately.
“We have now identified a series of problems and contractors are being ordered to get repairs done immediately.
“Where contractors cannot or will not take action the government will deal with them through legal channels.
“In some areas we will look to our fine engineers and soldiers in the Defence Force to come and get this highway moving effectively.”
The Prime Minister also made the point that while there were some contractors who were failing to fulfill their commitments, there are other contractors doing very good work and he commend them for their efforts.
“Looking ahead, the Government will implement a long-term management program for the Highlands Highway that will effectively administer maintenance into the future and engage only credible contractors.”
The Prime Minister said as part of urgent repairs, the 40-meter corridor that is mandated for the highway will be enforced, and he advised all people who have settled illegally within the corridor to move to a proper place before work starts.
“The Government will always address genuine landowners with genuine claims, but we will not tolerate claims that are unnecessary and are putting the public at distress when they travel up and down the Highlands Highway.
“It is the people right to travel freely and on good roads and this Government will make sure that happens.”
PM O’Neill said it was important for him to have a first-hand view and experience of the highway, and his visit took many people by surprise as he moved along the road without ceremony or fanfare.
“I spoke with communities right along the Highlands Highway and heard from them the hardship people have been facing because of problems due to road maintenance.
“This highway is a lifeline for so many people to trade, to seek medical help, to study and to visit relatives.
“We will fix the problems along the highway and I am going to come personally every month to ensure work is carried out.
“Some of the major issues along the highway that need immediate attention include the border area between Southern and Western Highlands and the borders between Simbu and Western and Eastern Highlands. These are a few of the areas on which we are expecting immediate action.”