14 Oct 2003

New Ireland landowners in Papua New Guinea go to court for share of gold

9:40 pm on 14 October 2003

A group of landowners in Papua New Guinea's New Ireland province have gone to court asking for a cut in any deals if a cache of gold is found.

The Post Courier newspaper says the landowners want to be recognised if the state makes any discovery of what's believed to be an estimated 1.6 billion U.S. dollar stash of gold bullion, allegedly hidden after world war two.

The judge granted their demand and also directed policemen and soldiers now in the area to give due respect to the landowners' traditional and constitutional rights.

The judge further directed the attorney-general, Francis Damem, and the state to liaise with the traditional landowners in their discovery, extraction and disposal of the alleged gold cache.

Meanwhile, the National newspaper says a New Ireland man claims there is no bullion in the area.

John Merebo is a landowner in the area where Japanese soldiers dug tunnels and purportedly hid the gold but a combined police/soldier team discovered only weapons when one was opened.

Mr Merebo says he spread a rumour there was gold because he was angered by foreigners searching for it.

He says he decided to speak out now and tell the truth because there was so much anxiety among the villagers, caused by the presence of police and soldiers.