With the National Housing Corporation describing the tenants as “chronic defaulters”, the underlying agenda was soon brought to the fore when NHC staff admitted that one of the properties will be used to offset a debt.
Residents of Cormorant St at Cassowary Road said they were subjected to intimidation by the National Housing Corporation officials and a private security firm.
NHC staff and two vehicles loaded with security guards armed with bush knives went into the NHC homes and forcefully moved out personal property as well as chopped down plants surrounding the houses.
Prior to the eviction, the tenants said they received a letter telling them they only had seven days to vacate the property.
Tamara Yasi is the daughter of one of the lessees. Her dad was in Port Moresby when they were forced out of the home they had occupied for six years.
“Nogat wanpla gutpla notis ol kam givim mipla tu,” she said. “Normally process em ol save givim mipla one month, and then ol ba tok 21 days bihain seven days na eviction sa kamap. (No proper notice was given to us. As per the process, one month would be given, then 21 days and later seven days before eviction is enforced.)
“Nogat polis tu. Ol kisim Lamadeb Security Service ya, tupla kar. Ol just march in tasol lo haus, ol yet by force ol apim ol samting kam autsait.” (There was no police presence as well. They got Lamadeb Security Service who came in two vehicles. They just marched into the house and forcefully removed our things.)
Irene Naramen Mesi is the wife of a sheriff at the Lae Courthouse. They had initially taken out a restraining order against getting evicted from the house that was initially leased to her husband’s late mother.
After amending the name of the lessee, the family paid a portion of the arrears.
“So mipla peim sampla mani i go insait. K1,000 em mipla bin gim lo tenancy agreement form.” (We paid some money; K1,000 was given for a tenancy agreement form.)
Mesi claimed they gave K1,000 to the NHC regional manager, Andrew Augwi, to amend their form; a claim that he has vehemently denied.
“Mipla weit ken, mipla go ken na gim wanpla mani ken lo Mathew Limu, lawyer blo housing commission. Na stil mipla weit lo tenancy agreement form lo mipla wokim samting olsem ol professional.” (After waiting for a while, we gave some more money to Mathew Limu, the housing commission lawyer. We are still waiting for the tenancy agreement form so we can do things like professionals.)
NHC legal officer and provincial manager, Limu, who also denied receiving any money from the tenants, said the eviction was not forceful.
“At the property, we’ve already noticed that they’ve packed up their belongings in preparation for their vacation,” he told media.
The private security firm that was used was linked to KC2 Ltd, an Asian-owned business that NHC owes money to. It is believed NHC plans to hand over the property to offset their debt.
“We’re waiting for the management decision to come forward,” said Augwi. “Like I said, there’s substantial amount in liabilities to KC2 by previous regime. It’s the prerogative of the management, whether we sell or we lease it out again.”