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Disgruntled landowners burnt Digicel Tower equipment in Bougainville

Communications equipment at the Loloho Digicel Tower situated on the mountains overlooking Loloho in Bougainville,  was burnt on Wednesday morning allegedly by disgruntled landowners.
This has now resulted in a total Digicel network outage in Arawa and the surrounding communities.
Although details are still sketchy, the burning of the tower equipment is alleged to have stemmed from a dispute over the distribution of rental payments amongst family members of people who own the land where the tower is situated on.
This act of sabotage is the latest of a number of acts of vandalism targeting Digicel communication towers on Bougainville.
This also comes amidst recent revelations from the mobile telco that it was struggling to maintain its services on Bougainville due to the frequent acts of vandalism and burning down of its communication equipment.
Many residents of Arawa town and the surrounding areas expressed grave concerns about the burning down of the tower.
“The banks, the easy pay power system, mobile banking and even EFTPOS machines all depend on the Digicel network here and people cannot hold others to ransom by destroying vital communication equipment,” a town resident who did not to be named said.
“Is this the type of behaviour we want to portray to the outside world especially in the lead up to referendum?”
There were long queues at the Arawa BSP Bank yesterday as people; especially public servants struggled to access their monies through the ATMs as EFTPOS services in shops have been affected by the network outage and police are investigating.
Meanwhile, Digicel Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer, Lorna McPherson, commented that the incident marks a sad day for the autonomous region as it continues to have individuals putting themselves before region’s development and prosperity.
“The burning of the tower yesterday or the day before was an issue where the landowners had a family feud,” Ms McPherson said.
She indicated the telco has no intension to repair the damage until the safety of its infrastructure is guaranteed.
“We need to speak to the landowners and we need to assess the situation because if we can’t keep the towers safe then there is no point having it there.
“What happens is that we fix it and then they steal the solar panels or they vandalize the towers?
“We have lots of different issues in Bougainville, but it is not down to Digicel but its certain individuals who do not want communications in their own region.
“You have to be able to communicate to the outside world and so therefore we need to create some sort of education and for the people of Bougainville.
“This is so that they understand the importance of communication especially for the future of all Bougainvillians.” Post Courier 

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