Flights in and out of Kagamuga Airport in Mount Hagen, Western Highlands province, have been disrupted by candidates contesting the Hagen open seat.
Concern for public safety has also prompted major carrier Air Niugini to cancel its service to neighbouring Enga province.
The 12 Hagen candidates, and their supporters, converged outside Kagamuga airport yesterday to protest the appointment of the electorate’s returning officer and carry out their threat to close the airport issued seven days ago.
It is not known whether disruptions would continue today.
Transporting of police personnel who are on transit in Port Moresby for National Election operations in the Highlands are affected, says Police Commissioner Gari Baki. See story, page 2
National Airports Corporation acting managing director Richard Yopo said yesterday the Electoral Commission matter was unrelated to airport operations or the aviation industry and such actions taken and threats by the 12 candidates in Mt Hagen were offences under the Civil Aviation Act.
“The issue does not do anyone any good. It only affects the smooth flow of passengers and the flow of vital cargo from and within our towns and cities.”
He said the candidates were warned last Friday that they were breaking or would be in breach of law if they were to proceed with their planned action.
Yesterday, the NAC had to scale down its operations and included its sister aviation entity PNG Air Services which controls air traffic.
Mr Yopo said that airline operators like Air Niugini, MAF, HeviLift, Airlines PNG and Heli Solutions did their own security assessment also had to cancel some of their later flights yesterday.
“Safety of the public, staff and the assets and facilities is something we all are not about to compromise,” he said.
Two of the twelve candidates, Luke Lukice Mathew and James Yoka said they are closing the airport because Mr Gamato had failed to respond to their petition in the past week.
Mr Yoka said their petition which Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has not responded to was to either remove the returning officer and the assistant returning officer or to swap the two officers with other electorates in the province. Eastern end Assistant Police Commissioner for Highlands Nema Mondia said the candidates have breached the Civil Aviation Act by closing the airport and that was not right.
However, Supt Mondia said a candidate assured him that the airport will be opened starting today.