Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Churches main cause of land issues in Vidar & Basamuk

Madang province is now embarking on some of the major economic projects in the country. These projects include the Ramu Nickel Mine, Yandera Gold Mine, the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ), Carbon Trade Pilot project at Middle-Ramu, Ramu Oil Palm and a long history of logging activities.

With these major economic project, there is one cross-cutting issue - Landownership and customary landowners. For now I would like to touch on two major projects thriving on lands acquired by religious organizations under a 99 year lease arrangement.

The land area at Vidar which was acquired by the Catholic Church in the 1800's from the locals from Kananam, went through several transactions after the 99 years lease lapsed. The Catholic church gave the land over to the government of PNG (not sure whether some money were exchanged in the transaction), then the government sold it to RD Tuna, and RD Tuna sold about a quarter of that Vidar landmass back to the government who is now embarking on the PMIZ project.

In a similar situation, the Lutheran Church also acquired the land at Basamuk from the locals under a 99 years lease. After the lease lapsed, the land went to the government and now the Ramu Nickel Mine developer CMCC who has set up the production plant site for the nickel.

Customary Landownership issues surrounding these two projects remains an unsolved issue. Both the Catholic and the Lutheran Churches entered the 99 years lease agreements with primitives and illiterate leaders who never went to school and do not understand the consequences of the agreements.

The Lutheran and the Catholic church also brought in people from the hinterlands to work on the plantations at Vidar and Basamuk. Now the 4th and 5th generations are also claiming landownership of the plantations and are challenging the customary landowners in participating as traditional landowners in the two projects.

The land titles commission is yet to deliberate on these landownership issues, but it is very clear the Catholic and the Lutheran churches are very quiet on the issue when in fact they are the main causes of the problems.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lawyer, Govt clash on mine

Post Courier
News Monday 23rd August, 2010

Lawyer, Govt clash on mine

MINING Minister John Pundari and landowners’ lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr have clashed over the proposed deep sea tailings placement issue with the Ramu nickel mine in Madang.

The case took a new twist over the weekend when lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Tiffany Nongorr was alleged by a ministerial staffer to have threatened to prolong the court case against the mine for more than two years.

In a statement from Mining Minister John Pundari’s office, it was alleged that Mrs Nongorr called the second secretary to the Minister, Simeon Wai, on his mobile last Friday and said that she had scientific data to help her prolong the court imposed moratorium on construction of the DSTP.

Her remarks were in relation to an article in the Post-Courier on August 20 titled: “Pundari backs Ramu after meeting locals.” The Pundari office statement claimed she had said she had spies at the Mineral Resources Authority who she collaboratedwith to get government information concerning the DSTP and Ramu nickel project.

But Mrs Nongorr yesterday denied any threat to prolong the case and said she told Mr Wai that when the Minister was appointed a couple of weeks ago, he immediately announced he would “fix” the Ramu nickel matter.“The next day I rang his second secretary and said that the plaintiffs wanted to brief him on their issues to assist him fix the matter,” Mrs Nongorr said.

“The second secretary said he would pass the message onto the Minister. They never contacted me again.” Mrs Nongorr said that on Friday the Minister was reported in the paper as saying no-one had come to the Government and showed the consequences of DSTP and the alternatives.

“I rang the second secretary and told him that I was very annoyed that the Minister had issued such a statement, as my clients had offered to brief him and he had ignored them. I said to him that the best way forward was for a negotiated solution in the best interests of the people, the Government and the miner. I said to him that if there was no early settlement then the case could go on for at least a year or more because whoever won the trial, there would likely be an appeal. And if that was the case, no one would benefit.”

Mr Pundari when told by Mr Wai about Mrs Nongorr’s outburst challenged the lawyer to disclose the identities of her “collaborators’’ at MRA or other government agencies.

“As far as I’m concerned, all public servants that are involved in the Ramu project are committed and dedicated to achieving the best outcome for all parties. If there are rogue elements within the Government team, they are doing so for their own interest and not serving the state’s and people’s interest,” he said.
Mrs Nongorr said she has had discussions and meetings with the lawyers for MRA and they believed a negotiated outcome was better for everyone.

Copyright©2009, Post-Courier Online.

Friday, August 20, 2010

QC delivers weather forecast in Court


The National Court in Madang heard the motions today (19.08.2010) for the Ramu Nickel Mine DSTP matter. The QC representing the MCC argued that, the National Court should allow MCC to construct the DSTP pipeline because the wet season is approaching and will cause further delays on the Ramu Nickel Project that is costing the developer millions. The QC had no credible source of weather forecast or  Meteorology reports to show the court. He based his argument on an engineering argument that, the rainy season would affect the construction of the DSTP pipeline.   
The Plaintiffs lawyer Ray Williams (who appeared on behalf of Tiffany Nonggorr) questioned the validity of the argument in the absence of any credible weather forecast report. Mr. Williams asked the court “where is the weather forecast from the National Weather Service Bureau that states that it’s going to be a rainy season?” ….“what would you expect, we are in the tropics and it rains now and a sunny day tomorrow….Welcome to PNG, the land of the unexpected” he added. Even the judge consented that, it rains anytime in PNG and with his experience in living in West New Britain, with a big smile, he said,” when the northern part is having a fine day, the southern part rains, so how do you know that it’s going to be a wet season?”.
The whole court room was filled with giggles as the audience could not stop laughing at the QC’s argument on the wet season and some of them had to be told to leave the court room immediately.
I followed the Plaintiffs' lawyer outside and asked him why he said “Welcome to PNG, the land of the unexpected”? He replied that, the argument of the rainy season was not an intelligent argument and therefore did not deserved an intelligent reply.
The decision will be given next Tuesday the 24th of August 2010.

Monday, August 9, 2010

China on a Mission to Exploit the Pacific Ocean

Pacific Andes set to sail world's biggest factory vessel
Posted: 19 November 2009 0011 hrs 

Photos 1 of 1

Workmen putting the finishing touches to the Lafayette, Pacific Andes' version of a mothership - a floating fish factory, touted as the world's biggest in its class.
QINGDAO, China: Integrated seafood company Pacific Andes International is positioning itself to ride the next big wave, which it believes will come from the South Pacific Ocean.

Its new flagship factory vessel will go into operation next month, and this is expected to help raise the profit margins at its fishery business to as high as 50 per cent, up from 35 per cent.

Workmen are busy putting the finishing touches to the US$100 million vessel, named the Lafayette.

It is Pacific Andes' latest version of a mothership - a floating fish factory, touted as the world's biggest in its class.

The vessel is set to sail to the South Pacific Ocean at the end of the month, and its target is to catch 300,00 tonnes of fish - the equivalent of twice what Hong Kong consumes in a year.

Designed to stay out at sea all year around, it will be supported by five super-trawlers and seven catcher vessels that will pump the live catch into the Lafayette for processing.

The vessel is able to freeze 1,500 tonnes a day, and the fishes will then forwarded directly to their destination.

Ng Joo Siang, managing director of Pacific Andes International, said: "With our traditional fishing business, we have EBITDA of 35 to 40 per cent, that the margin and our net profit margin is way exceeding 20 per cent.

"So with Lafayette, which is more efficient that other fleet that we have, we believe that with this higher revenue and higher profitability, we should be able to provide good return to our shareholders."

Also helping to boost the Hong Kong-listed company's bottomline is its new processing plant in Qingdao.

The new facility is able to handle 60,000 tonnes of fish fillet annually, and its efficiencies has reduced cost of sales by up to 15 per cent.

Pacific Andes made a name for itself by supplying a then-little known white fish – the Alaskan Pollock. Today, the fish is widely used by fast-food chains such as McDonald's.

The South Pacific venture offers two new lines of growth – Peruvian anchovies and Chilean jack mackerel. The latter will be targeted specifically at the African market.

"We have decided as a company to expand heavily into Africa, we want to have a pan-African distribution concept," said Ng.

"We believe this continent will have great growth potential, greater than even China, so that's an area we're targeting. Eventually, we hope that in five years' time, China and Africa can be equally important to us."

Pacific Andes today holds a 15 per cent share of the total imported Chinese fish market.

Source/Link:  http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/corporatenews/view/1019076/1/.html

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vanuatu: Chiefs call on Forum leaders to protect custom land.

Vanuatu Malvatumauri (National Council of Chiefs) has called on Pacific leaders to protect custom land, endorsing a regional declaration on indigenous land tenure in Melanesia.
http://www.islandsbusiness.com/images/flags/vanuatu.gif

Thu, 5 Aug 2010
 By Nic Maclellan in Port Vila

Vanuatu’s Malvatumauri (National Council of Chiefs) has called on Pacific leaders to protect custom land, endorsing a regional declaration on indigenous land tenure in Melanesia.

Chief Selwyn Garu, Secretary General of the Malvatumauri announced that the council of chiefs had unanimously endorsed the Mele Declaration on Land in Melanesia.

The declaration, prepared at a regional meeting last June, states: “We are opposed to any form of alienation of land from customary landowners, whether by outright sale or through leases which remove landowners’ capacity to effectively control, access and use their land.”

The declaration also calls for the overhaul of land administration in Melanesia and rejects “all policies which require that customary land be registered as a precondition for business or development activities.”

The Malvatumauri, a national body which unites chiefs from 20 island councils and two urban councils, is meeting in Port Vila this week.

Chief Selwyn Garu said: “The declaration was presented before the Council of Chiefs this morning. The members of the Council of Chiefs talked about it and in the end of the discussion we unanimously endorsed it.”

The Mele Declaration was prepared by the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA), a network of landowner, cultural and community groups concerned with land tenure and development across the Melanesian region.

MILDA was founded at a meeting in Madang, Papua New Guinea in 2009. Their second meeting at Mele village in Vanuatu last June brought together a range of organisations “to strategise a regional response to the persistent pressure for registration and leasing of customary land.”

The Mele Declaration was prepared at the June meeting, which brought together chiefs, church leaders, members of women’s and youth groups and other participants from Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Australia.

Changing land use for tourism

In Melanesian nations like Vanuatu, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, over 90 per cent of land is held by customary land and resource owners.

For Selwyn Garu: “When we talk about land in Melanesia, you can’t separate land from custom. If you lose land, you lose custom. If you lose custom, you lose land.

“Custom defines the use of land, but custom cannot be practiced on alienated land – it can only be practiced on custom land,” he stated. “Land continues to be the main source of employment for the people in the villages. With land, we have all that we need.”

Vanuatu’s Constitution states that “All land in the republic of Vanuatu belongs to the indigenous custom owners and their descendants.” It also states that “only indigenous citizens of the republic of Vanuatu who have acquired their land in accordance with a recognised system of land tenure shall have perpetual ownership of their land.”

In spite of this, many land owners on Vanuatu’s main island of Efate have granted long-term leases to overseas investors for tourist projects and private strata title developments, which have effectively alienated much of the shoreline along the coast.

Landowners must compensate the leaseholder for improvements to the land if they wish to reclaim their land at the end of the lease. For this reason some villagers will find it difficult to reclaim leased land after decades of construction or improvement on land provided under long term leases.

Action by Forum leaders

The chiefs’ decision comes as government leaders from around the region have gathered in Vanuatu for the 41st Pacific Islands Forum.

After endorsement by the Malvatumauri on Wednesday morning, the declaration was launched at the Chiefs’ Nakamal in Port Vila by Chief Selwyn Garu, Joel Simo of MILDA and Ralph Regenvanu, the Member of Parliament for Port Vila.

Regenvanu, one of the co-founders of MILDA, called on Forum leaders to protect land rights as the basis of the Melanesian economy: “We would like this Declaration to inform what the Forum is doing and the decisions that they’ll take in the next few days. We are urging our leaders of government, we are urging international financial institutions (including donor countries) but especially our own leaders to move away from policies that talk about land registration as a prerequisite for gaining credit.”

Regenvanu added: “Over the last couple of years, we’ve managed to get the concept of the ‘traditional economy’ on to the agenda in Vanuatu, in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and in the Forum. But we need to have our leaders seriously taking this concept, this reality on board - the traditional economy continues to be the main source of sustenance for people in much of Melanesia.”

For Chief Selwyn Garu: “I’d like to say that land is a living thing. It gives life. It empowers life and you can’t reduce the value of land the way it is being done nowadays in many parts of Melanesia.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Melanesian Lands Defence Alliance - Mele Declaration 2010

 The Mele Declaration 2010

The declaration of the 2nd annual meeting of the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance, held at Mele Village in Port Vila, Vanuatu, 14-19 June 2010


In response to increasing threats to customary land systems posed by the land reform agendas of international financial institutions, aid agencies, governments and elites within our own countries, the second annual meeting of the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA) affirms its commitment to indigenous control of customary land systems. Recognising that the threats to customary land are directed against the Melanesian Pacific as a region, our intention is to unite and organize on a regional basis, to defend the continued control of Melanesian communities over their land, sea, water, air and natural resources. We assert that the customary land systems are the basis of life and community in Melanesia.


Established in 2009, MILDA is an alliance of groups and individuals united by a shared vision, a common cause, and a commitment to working together. Our members are fieldworkers and community members, women’s representatives and mothers, fathers and grandfathers. We include church leaders and traditional leaders, academics, regional NGOs and international supporters. We first came together last year in Madang, PNG, and following from that we came together this year in Port Vila, Vanuatu. We came from Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Australia, and were privileged to have traditional chiefs with us. We came to share experiences, stories and skills, and strategize a regional response to the persistent pressure for registration and leasing of customary land.


Land has always been of the highest value to the lives of our peoples, and so it will be forgenerations to come. In all Melanesian traditions, land is regarded as a non-alienable resource that cannot be parted with. The relationship which we have with our land is special and unique, and cannot be accounted for through Western systems of value.


TheMelanesian definition of land is inclusive. Land extends from the surface of the ground to the centre of the earth. It stretches above us to the limits of the sky. It includes the waters of our rivers, streams and creeks. It includes our oceans. The land has belonged to us – and we to it – since time immemorial. Land is our mother and the source of life for our people. Land secures life, fosters and strengthens relationships that sustain our society. It embodies the link to our past, present and future and therefore sustains everything we do. MILDA members reaffirm the sanctity of land.


The meeting asserted the following:
1. We are opposed to any form of alienation of land from customary landowners, whether by outright sale or through leases which remove landowners’ capacity to effectively control, access and use their land.

2. We believe that the ways in which land is used and distributed should be determined by Melanesian custom, and not Western legal systems.

3. We assert the value of traditional economy, which promotes self-reliance amongst our people and communities, and we are opposed to actions and policies which encourage the dependency of Melanesian peoples on others, including the state.

4. We reject all policies which require that customary land be registered as a precondition for business or development activities, and demand that Melanesian governments cease all pressures for customary land registration, whether voluntary or involuntary.

5. We oppose all foreign programs, bribes and inducements to bring about customary land registration in Melanesia.

6. We call for a total overhauling of the current land administration in Melanesia to weed out corrupt land dealings and fraudulent titling. All customary land taken by these means should be returned to customary owners.


The Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance resolved that it will meet again nextyear in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Piping Out Southern Highlands Province

With the LNG project, the Southern Highlands and newly established Hela Province have elevated PNG’s profile in the Liquefied and Natural Gas in the global oil and gas production. The PNG LNG project which is referred to many as the economic “savior” of the country proposes to develop gas fields in the Southern Highlands and Western Province of PNG and transport the gas via pipeline to an LNG facility near Port Moresby for shipment to markets overseas.

Amidst the controversies surrounding the signing of the Benefit Sharing Agreement (BSA) where key landowning clans refuse to sign and the creation of the Hela province after the signing of the BSA now brewing a lot of grievances on ground as seen in the recent incident where the crowd threw stones at the PM and the government officials, another agreement has been signed for Southern Highlands for yet another resource.

Australia in desperate need for cheap and reliable clean water sources is looking at spending $A30 billion to have it piped over 4000 kilometres to their continent. Papua New Guinea and Australian company Might and Power (M&A) Ltd yesterday entered into an agreement for the latter to carry out pre-feasibility and feasibility studies into the PNG-Australia water project. The environment impact study will be part of a K20 million feasibility study that will be undertaken.

The project hopes to one day pipe fresh water from a number of rivers including the Mendi River in the Southern Highlands Province to Australia, where it will be used to feed dry riverine systems and the pipe will also go all the way to Lake Eyre where the lake has dried up and the local residents have resettled elsewhere.
He said the State and Federal governments had the full backing of the project as they saw there was a big need for fresh and cheap water supply to nearly all the eastern states of Australia. Mr Ariel said rivers in Cape York could not be used for the project because there was no gravity and they dry up during the dry seasons while rivers in the Southern Highlands Province had the gravity and the continuous rainfall to keep flowing all year round. “The advantage for the project (in PNG) is the altitude and the rainfall,” Mr Ariel said. “Water in the Highlands is abundant while it is scarce in Australia.”

PNG and Southern Highlands Province is yet to realize the benefits from LNG have gone ahead to exploit its water resources. The oil and gas will be piped out and now the fresh waters will also be piped out. Why should PNG exploit all its natural resources at the same time as if there is no tomorrow? It is not wise to take everything out of the warehouse at the same time without preserving some for the future generation and therefore it is not wise to have both the LNG and the water project coming out of the same province at the same time.

RD Managers Threaten Workers In Their Own Villages

Filippino Expats AGAIN Bully PNGeans

You would think with a court appearance this Friday (30 July) in which six of their Filippino workers will be facing charges of murdering a Papua New Guinean government inspector on one of their ships, that RD Tuna would be a bit more cautious in their interactions with the local staff.

But that’s NOT how Pete Celso’s Troops are acting and again it appears RD is getting themselves in trouble. For years RD has violated the laws of PNG from environmental abuses, to sanitation problems, to strikes by Filipino staff on their boats (which RD branded as pirates). The company which has a rather poor reputation both within PNG and overseas continues to push locals around as if they owned PNG.

Chief hypocrite Rodrigo Rivera, Chairman and President, who pretends to be a wonderful Christian has once again shown his true colors and that of the pitiful RD group of companies.

Battered and frustrated at the strike by their workers RD managers went to new lows Tuesday night (27 July) as they descended upon Maiwara village and threatened the women to come to work or face turning in their Id Cards, which in essence meant they would be sacked.

Human Resource Manager Romeo Lee, Prouduction Manager, Mr. Nongs, Plant Manager Gerry Juvele and last nights coward Security Manager Paul Vingu displayed typical RD management style, by boarding one of the vehicles which trucks the RD workers in and headed to Maiwara village. The night shift women were NOT going to work in solidarity with their fellow workers who had their ID cards taken from them by RD Security and NOT allowed to come back to work. Nongs and Juvele threatened the women demanding they come to work or lose their jobs. While many of the frightened women did board the truck - a second truck saw the back almost empty. Still there was NO PRODUCTION at the plant last night, as only a handful of women showed up for work. Makes one wonder what the purpose was of harassing the Maiwara women, who instead of working stood around doing nothing. Nice work RD Management Team you have proven you are exactly what everyone says you are.

Union members and angry workers are still upset over RD not paying them the minimum wage. Labor representations have said RD has been in violation of the law. But violating the law is nothing new for Celso and company. RD has begun recruiting new workers and the word is 78 had taken their medicals today. RD workers say they will NOT allow the new workers to proceed to work and that RD best reinstate the now 505 workers suspended. The suspended workers say they have had enough
of RD’s treatment and will do what’s necessary to be treated fairly in their own country.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Landowners from 4 project areas Joined Forces

Papua New Guinea is on the pinnacle of major resources boom in the country and the government is doing its best to create an investment friendly environment at the same time customary landowner issues are reaching boiling point all around the major resource development and proposed project sites.

Landowner issues ranging from, consultation processes, agreements, landownership, participation, environmental plans and permits, social mapping and spin off businesses are some of the issues are raised from the major resource development projects in PNG.

Landowners from the major project areas in PNG have been fighting in isolation to address their concerns since the first resource development project in the country was developed. However, for the first time in the history of PNG, four (4) major project sites and project impacted areas came together to join forces to address their issues.

In a joint press conference held at the Aku Lodge conference room on the 20th of July 2010, representatives from the Watut River Union (Morobe), the riverine communities union organizing around the impacts on the Watut river system by the Hidden valley mine, Raicoast Anti-DSTP group (Madang) who are opposing the plans for the dumping of the Ramu Nickel mine waste into the Basamuk Bay , representatives from the clans from the LNG project (Hela) who did not signed the benefit sharing agreement, Unitech students from the new Hela province, New Ireland Resource Watch, the people's movement of the New Ireland Province who oppose the deep seabed mining, the Bismarck Solomons Sea Indigenous People's Council (BSSIPC) also opposing deep seabed mining and the Madang People's forum (MPF)collectively want the government to respond to their major concerns respectively, review all these projects and repeal the new environmental act.

The group made a strong call to Somare to step down and NA to be removed from the government, because they claim the current NA/Somare government is not representing the interest of the people and seen to be driven by foreign investors. If there is going to be a change in government, the group made it clear also that, these demands need top be looked into immediately. The press conference was done a day before the adjournment of the parliament to November. However the group was very clear that if the government does not change or if the new government will not look into their demands, then the people will take it upon themselves to clean up the mess.

This group is also calling on all other landowners from other project areas in PNG to come together and work together because, the government is serving foreign interests.

Monday, July 19, 2010

6 RD Tuna Workers Face Murder Charges In Death of PNG Government Official

(PNG Official sought to protect dolphins)


Six RD Tuna workers - all Filippino - are facing murder charges in the death of National Fisheries Observer, Charlie Lasisi of New Ireland Province.

The incident took place on 29 March of this year on board the RD Tuna vessel FV/Dolores 838 inside the Bismark Seas in Vanimo, along the Indonesian/PNG border.

Police said Mr. Lasisi had been strongly objecting to the fishing of dolphins by
RD Vessels. The catching of dolphins, sharks and other prohibited fish has been one of the many criticisms of RD over years.

The summary of facts said it was between 6pm-7pm when he went missing after he left the ship’s mess hall. It said when he left the room, two Filippino crew members - Ramil Lumactod and June Alon left with him, but returned to report he had “gone missing.” The captain searched the area and ship and could not locate Lasisi or the body.

On 31 March a report was sent to the Managing Director of National Fisheries Authority (NFA) Sylvester Pokajam and the National Maritime Safety Authority who sent officers to investigate on “suspicion of murder”. Also charged with murder in addition to Ramil and June were Bonfacio Gelvoko, Franz Olivia Oyao, Jerwin Famini and Francisco Famini.

The six were remanded at Beon jail in Madang for several days until K500 bail each with TEN CONDITIONS were granted by Justice David Cannings. They were released under the care of the senior Vice President of RD Tuna Canners Limited in Madang. Justice Cannings ordered that RD Canners pay surety of K10,000 because they were all foreigners. Cannings said the amount should ensure they six do not escape because not only would the money be forfeited but it would proven bad for the corporate reputation of RD Tuna if the six did not return. The accused will appear again for mention on 30 July.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chief Somare Attacked in Tari

The swearing in of the Hela Transitional Authority in Tari Town turned rowdy as angry landowners threw stones at the officials today (15.07.2010) at around 12:pm

When the Prime Minister took the stage to give his keynote address and officiate the swearing in ceremony,the University students from Hela raised placards with slogans such as "NO LNG" and confronted the PM with their dissatisfaction. When the police and security personals moved in to remove the protesters, that's when the situation went out of control as landowners threw stones at the Chief, the government officials and the police.

It was reported by someone from Tari via mobile phone that, the police fired teargas at the crowd to disperse them. In the tussle between the police and the crowd, it was reported by eye witness that, the PM took his share of stones thrown at him. It is unclear, whether the PM sustained any injuries or not.

There is still a lot of unsettled issues regarding the LNG project and more trouble is expected to erupt.

National News Paper lying to Protect Asian Interests

There is something going on in PNG. You can feel it. The corrupt government of Michael Somare is being called out at all levels of society - from the political Opposition which you expect, to they grassroots which you don't expect. Young Papua New Guineans are standing up asking questions which need to be asked and in Madang just two weeks ago took to the streets - challenging the PM, the Attorney General and the Police who told them they could not march. The protest march was against the new Environmental Act which came about because of the notorious Chinese STATE OWNED Ramu Nickel Mine which proposes to dump over 100 million tonnes of waste into the local bay. Landowners who has been complaining about this dumping FOR OVER A DECADE are now organized both on the ground and in the court room where they have successfully been able to halt the mine from continuing through a court injunction.

Yet through all this something is beginning to smell - and while this is of no great surprise they need to be called out on it. One of the two PNG dailies - The National - is mis-reporting news and its becoming more and more obvious. As everyone knows the National is owned by the Malaysian owned Rimbunan Hijau, the actual owners of Papua New Guinea who have been having their way in PNG for over 20 years now. For all intent and purposes they ran PNG for years. They are now in competition with, yet cooperating with the Chinese.

Over the years everyone is aware of the bias of the National on logging issues and more recently their playing down the Asian influence in PNG. This comes as no secret to anyone. However in recent weeks it should be pointed out that TWO stories which came from the National and serves the interests of those they support must be challenged.

After the orderly and peaceful protest against the Environmental Laws in Madang - the National CHOSE to report on Page 1 of their newspaper that government authorities were meeting and prepared to arrest the organizers of the protest. The story was NOT picked up by the other daily -the Post Courier. Rumors were flying early that the story was untrue and fabricated by the National. Attempts to verify this story from government sources failed. Two days ago one high ranking government official who asked not to be identified said "it was never going to happen. It was an attempt by the government to frighten other areas of the country so they wouldn't take to the streets like Madang." He went on to say the government collaborated with the National to put out the false story.

Now the National has chosen another lie for purposes only they or perhaps you the reader will understand. Prime Minister Micheal Somare was in Madang recently meeting with one of the Plaintiffs in the Court Case against the Chinese Government owned Ramu Nickel Mine. During that meeting the Chief doing business like he always has and pushed by his Chinese masters offered the plaintiffs a K40 million deal to the plaintiff and his people in exchange for dropping the court case. The National chose to run the story saying and "out of court settlement will probably be reached". Oh really? Yet that same day the plaintiff reported to the other news media that was a lie - and it was being misreported. To the plaintiff we would say it was more than misreported it was RH protecting its interest and those of their Asian cronies.

And did you all notice how the article about RH intimidating the news media (ie: Post Courier) was conveniently NOT reported in the National, yet picked up by all other media. The National in line with the National Alliance and Pangu do not seem to understand what's going on.They don't see it or don't want to believe the change which is in the air. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. For one thing BE CAREFUL - (more than usual that is) what you read in the National. They have shown VERY CLEARLY ONCE AGAIN - they will say anything to protect their interests - and those interests are not in the interest of the majority of Papua New Guineans. Wake up RH - the old days are over.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why should the Chinese be Exempted from Liquor Ban in Madang ??

It is reported that the Madang Provincial Government will put a liquor ban in Madang. However, insider’s information from the Provincial Liquor Licensing office in Madang revealed that the Chinese are going to be exempted from the liquor ban. There is no reasonable reason behind this exemption and it is becoming ridiculously unfair to the other liquor businesses in town.

It has become pretty obvious that the Chinese influence and manipulation has penetrated every structure of authority in Madang. The famous flying fox habitat has turned into a typical Chinese outpost.

This sounds more like the failed prohibition experiment in the USA which led to the rise of the (Italian) mafia. With unfettered Ramu Nico access to booze in Madang, could not the same thing happen here, particularly with the worries expressed in the press about an already existing "Chinese mafia" in PNG? And PNGeans can't be trusted with booze but the Asian foreigners can? This is discrimination against PNGeans.

Now they monopolize the liquor sales in town and guess what, this is where the big money is. Chinese like to stick their nose into the areas where there is a lot of money. Now, is it a coincidence that, the Provincial Government decided to issue a liquor ban, and the Chinese are going to be exempted, or is it a plan that is being implemented to monopolize the business?

What more do we expect-the Chinese mafia is slowly taking over this country and its going to get nasty especially with the NA (New Asian Party) in power.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dumping System Harmful

Post Courier
News Monday 05th July, 2010
Dumping system ‘harmful’
By JOSHUA ARLO

The approved permit given to the Ramu Nico (MCC) Management Limited for coral blasting to construct the deep sea tailing placement system (DSTPS) was made without proper assessment of the potential risks to the environment, a court was told on Friday.

This showed that the Government had failed to properly assess the impacts of whether this course of dumping of mine waste is harmful and will interfere with the eco-biological fish and fauna life in the waters at the mine site.
These were some of the arguments put by landowners and landowner groups around the project site who are fighting for a permanent injunction against MCC’s proposed mine dumping plan and its construction.

The landowners also argue that the permit does not authorise the environmental harm that will be caused by dumping the mine waste in the sea, and that so far there have been breaches in some of the conditions of the permit in which MCC has failed to follow to the letter as to no septic tanks constructed for its workers and no proper drainage systems on the project site to remove human waste which is being dumped straight into the sea, untreated.

Tiffany Nonggorr for the landowners argued that if MCC could not follow these simple conditions, how could it monitor the dumping of tonnes of mine waste into the sea. Mrs Nonggorr submitted that DEC also neglected to monitor these simple permit conditions, and the landowners failed to see how it could monitor the mine waste being dumped into the sea. She also argued that there were scientific research reports that showed such proposed tailing dumping would cause harm to the environment and the lifestyle of the local people.

She urged the court to look at the issue of harm being unlawful, not the fact whether the permit approving the dumping was lawful or unlawful. She said there was no evidence of further research on this issue before DEC approved the permit.

MCC argues the permit was approved and there was no serious issue for the matter to linger in court. MCC submitted that the DSTPS was the best option of mine waste dumping after looking at all other dumping systems. MCC told the court that Mrs Nonggorr had “glossed” over the facts, making them “quite laughable” and that there was evidence of further research which showed there will be no harmful risks imposed using this proposed system. MCC stated that acid used in the mining process that will be dumped is “deactivated” and “so it is nonsense that tailings discharged in the sea is harmful”.

While the Supreme Court considers whether or not to permanently extend the interim injunction, the issue raised by the landowners is yet to be heard in a substantive trial before the National Court.

Copyright©2009, Post-Courier Online.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rumor: K3million offered to Plaintiffs on negoitiation table

Amidst all the controversies surrounding the Ramu Nickel Mine with the court cases and campaigns against DSTP running parallel to each other, there are already new developments.

There are rumors that, the PNG Government, CMCC and a MRA Lawyer currently negotiating with the Plaintiffs to withdraw the court case to allow the mine to progress. An amount of K3million is said to be offered to the Plaintiffs plus other benefits such as contracts for them to withdraw the court case.

Several Landowners from Raicoast are now lodging at the Madang Lodge while the negotiations are going on.

By the way, is it legal for the defendants to negotiate with the plaintiffs directly, when the matter is in the courts?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PNG's Leading Constitutional Lawyer Calls for PM to Step Aside


Sir Micheal Somare  - the right thing to do is to step aside as Prime Minister _______________________________________________________________
The right thing for Sir Michael Somare to do to promote and uphold good and ethical government, protect the good name of the Office of Prime Minister and set a better example for leadership in PNG, is to step aside as Prime Minister now; and allow investigations to be conducted by relevant law enforcement agencies into serious allegations that he broke a number of laws in the Moti Affair.
The Moti Affair
The Ombudsman Commission submitted to the Parliament its report on the Moti Affair. The Parliament rejected the Report on 10th March 2010. In the recent sitting of the Parliament, no mention was made of the Report or of the Moti Affair generally. Should PNG just forget about this episode, just like other similar issues in the past, as it if it never happened?
This one should not be forgotten.
The Moti Affair should not be forgotten because it involved allegations of unlawful conduct on the part of the person holding the Office of Prime Minister. The person occupying that Office, Sir Micheal Somare, was accused of beaching PNG’s laws including committing criminal offences. If PNG is ever to tackle serious issues about whether the rule of law exists in the country and issues of governance (mismanagement, corruption, etc.) facing PNG, we must ensure that the matters raised by the Moti Affair are properly investigated. The image of the Office of Prime Minister has been tarnished.
Office of Prime Minister is separate from Sir Michael Somare
The Office of Prime Minister is the top most leadership position in PNG.  It belongs to the people of PNG. It does not belong to an individual.
An individual occupying the Office of Prime Minister must be the first to respect the Office. If any wrong doing is alleged against the person occupying the Office, and the allegations made are serious, the person holding the Office must, at the least, step aside as Prime Minister and allow investigations to be conducted. To not to do so is to bring the Office of Prime Minister into disrepute, damage its image and set a bad example of leadership down the line.
The Ombudsman Commission’s report on the Moti Affair highlighted breaches of a number of laws. They are serious in two respects. One, the laws broken are important laws. Two, the Ombudsman Commission report’s findings raise allegations that require further investigation by relevant authorities without being compromised, real or apprehended.
For the appropriate authorities to conduct the investigations without the appearance of influence by Sir Micheal Somare remaining in the Office of Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare ought to step aside to allow these investigations to be conducted. There is already a perception in the minds of many Papua New Guineans that any investigations will come to nothing because Sir Micheal Somare is the Prime Minister. This is a bad indictment on the rule of law in PNG.
Serious allegations against Sir Michael Somare in the Moti Affair
The single most serious allegation made against Sir Michael Somare is that he gave directions for Julian Moti to be removed from PNG whilst judicial processes were still in play.
In its 2009 Report, the Ombudsman Commission said that, from evidence available to it, in its opinion, Sir Micheal Somare gave the direction for Julian Moti to be removed from PNG to Solomon Islands. Sir Michael Somare has denied giving such a direction.
Whether or not Sir Michael Somare did or did not give the direction must be determined by the appropriate authorities. The Ombudsman Commission has formed the view that Sir Michael Somare gave the direction. Sir Michael Somare says he did not. Sir Michael Somare is not guilty of anything. But, he stands accused by a competent constitutional office – and the accusations are serious. Sir Michael Somare ought not to occupy the Office of Prime Minister until he is cleared.
But the Ombudsman is not the only body that has reached this conclusion. A defence force inquiry in 2007, headed by a senior judge, reportedly made similar findings as the Ombudsman Report. Sir Michael Somare took court action to stop the release and publication of that inquiry report in late 2007.
To protect the good name of the Office of Prime Minister, to establish better standards of ethics in leadership, and to remove any perception in the minds of Papua New Guineans that he will influence investigations by relevant authorities; respecting the people’s Office of Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare ought to step aside. There is good example of this. Sir Julius Chan stepped aside as Prime Minister to allow an inquiry to be conducted in the Sandline Affair.  Here, the situation is more serious, in that, the Ombudsman Commission has already formed the view that Sir Michael Somare gave a direction that led to breaches of a number of laws.
What are the Ombudsman Commission’s findings? On the mid-night to early morning of 10 October 2006, Julian Moti was flown out from Port Moresby to Munda in the Solomon Islands in a PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) aircraft.
·         On 30th September 2006, the District Court had revoked an earlier warrant for Julian Moti to be released and ordered that Mr. Moti be arrested and detained. If Sir Michael Somare gave directions for Julian Moti to be taken out of PNG, as the Ombudsman Commission concluded, this was a direct violation of the orders of the District Court. This is serious because it is contempt of court and brings into conflict the separation of powers – between the judiciary and the executive government.
·         The flight from Port Moresby to Munda was not approved by the civil aviation authorities as required by laws applying to aircraft flights. These laws were broken. It was also dangerous. The airfield at Jacksons airport was not lighted, and the PNGDF aircraft flew out at 1:00am in the dark.  Breaches of these laws implicate Sir Michael Somare if he gave the direction for Julian Moti’s removal as the Ombudsman Commission concluded.
·         Only the National Executive Council has the power to direct the PNGDF to undertake missions such as that involving the flying out of Julian Moti from PNG to Solomon Islands. If Sir Michael Somare gave the direction, as the Ombudsman Commission concluded, this was a breach of laws that apply to the PNGDF.
·         Police were also directed by government officials not to arrest and detain Julian Moti as ordered by the Court. This is an interference in the independence of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and itself a contempt of court.
The breaches of these laws are serious, and they must be properly investigated. And, Sir Michael Somare stands accused in these serious breaches.
Attack on the Ombudsman Commission
Like the office of the Prime Minister, the Ombudsman Commission as an institution belongs to the people of PNG. It is an important office established by the Constitution of PNG.
In statements made in Parliament and published in newspapers, Sir Michael Somare criticised the Ombudsman Commission’s report “stupid and disappointing” and its contents as reflecting “very poorly of the integrity and objectivity of the Ombudsman Commission in the conduct of its duties”.
Already, this criticism of the Ombudsman Commission demonstrates why Sir Michael Somare ought to step aside as Prime Minister and allow those investigations to establish whether or not Sir Michael Somare is guilty of what he has been accused of. The people’s Office of Prime Minister cannot be used, by the person occupying it, to attack an important constitutional office like the Ombudsman Commission that also belongs to the people of PNG. The Ombudsman Commission findings were against Sir Michael Somare as an individual, not the office of Prime Minister.
Other events which have taken place before and since the Ombudsman Commission’s report into the Moti Affair raise serious questions as to whether Sir Michael Somare (as Prime Minister) is unfairly prejudiced against the Ombudsman Commission.
·         The Maladina sponsored amendments to the Constitution and the Organic Law on Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership have been controversial. There is suspicion that these important legislative measures, some parts of which will cut down the powers of the Ombudsman Commission, are being handled with prejudice by the Government that Sir Michael Somare leads.
·         The Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek, was attacked by criminals recently and it has been said that it was an attempt on his life. Neither the Prime Minister nor any other Minister condemned the attack.  The perception is reinforced that Sir Michael Somare and his Ministers are prejudiced against the Ombudsman Commission and are unable to do what is required of them as leaders – to speak out against such attacks to protect individuals who work in public institutions which involve risks.
·         Sir Michael Somare stopped the publication of the Defence inquiry report headed by Justice Gibbs Salika. Not only did this discredit a senior judge of the third arm of government, the judiciary, but the perception remains that Sir Michael Somare stopped the inquiry to protect himself.
Do the Ombudsman Commission’s conclusions made on Sir Michael Somare in the Moti report have basis?
Anyone who has read the Ombudsman Commission’s report of the Moti Affair will see that the Ombudsman Commission’s conclusion that Sir Micheal Somare gave the direction for Julian Moti to be flown out of PNG came from one person’s evidence – the evidence of the late Joseph Assaigo, then Director-General of Office of Security Coordination and Advisory. Assaigo told the Ombudsman Commission that Sir Michael Somare’s then Chief of Staff Leonard Louma told him (Assaigo) that the Prime Minister wanted Julian Moti to be removed from PNG, and Assaigo and then Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe were to do this.
Assaigo’s was the only evidence stating to the effect that Sir Michael Somare gave the direction for Moti to be taken out of PNG. There was no other evidence. Assaigo was a lawyer and a public servant for many years.
However, two critical people did not give evidence to the Ombudsman Commission. They were Leonard Louma and Joshua Kalinoe. The Ombudsman Commission wanted their evidence but, on the specific matter of the removal of Moti from PNG to Solomon Islands, Sir Michael Somare stopped Leonard Louma and Joshua Kalinoe from giving evidence to the Ombudsman Commission. This, Sir Michael Somare did, by using Section 19 of the Organic Law on Ombudsman Commission, which permits a Prime Minister, after consultations with the Ombudsman Commission, to certify that giving information on a subject matter would prejudice the security, defence or international relations of PNG; or giving information would involve disclosure of proceedings, deliberations or decisions of the National Executive Council.  
The use of Section 19 by Sir Michael Somare in this way raises more questions. The first is - why did Sir Michael Somare prevent Leonard Louma and Joshua Kalinoe from being questioned by the Ombudsman? Second, by using the power given to the Prime Minster by Section 19, some may say that Sir Michael Somare had something to hide and did so to protect himself. This is another example of why the individual occupying the Office of Prime Minister must be separated from the Office of Prime Minister. Otherwise, the actions of the individual will result in illegitimate exercise of the powers, functions and damage the image of the people’s Office of Prime Minister.
Parliament is neglecting its duty to scrutinise the executive government
On 10 March 2010, the Parliament rejected the Moti Affair report submitted by the Ombudsman Commission.  The manner of the presentation of the Report was questioned by certain Members of Parliament (MPs).  Would the Report have been tabled if it was given to the Government to table? Chances are that it would not have been allowed because of the complete control and subjugation of the Parliament by the executive.
Members of Parliament completely abrogated their responsibilities as members of the legislature to examine and debate the Report and its findings properly. MPs did a complete disservice to the people of PNG.
Very serious breaches of the country’s laws were alleged. The Prime Minister was accused of breaching these laws by the Ombudsman Commission. Instead of taking these issues seriously and examining the conduct of the executive, the Parliament rejected the Report. What is the role of Parliament if it cannot inquire into questionable actions of the executive? What is the role of MPs? In the recently concluded sitting of the Parliament, nothing was mentioned of this serious issue. It has prompted me to write this.
The Parliament is fast losing its legitimacy. That legitimacy does not come from those elected exercising power given in elections but from the people. If the people perceive that Parliament is not doing what it should be doing (including supervising the executive government), the people have the right to ask that Parliament must disband itself. MPs must not take the people of PNG for granted.
What is my interest in raising these matters?
I raise these issue as a citizen concerned about the state of poor governance in PNG – evidenced by gross mismanagement, corruption, bad ethics and poor standards of leadership, and serious challenges to the rule of law. As a lawyer interested in public policy issues, I feel obliged to do this since most professionals and professional organisations have been silent on important issues of governance in this young country in general and, more specifically, the rule of law in particular. It would be dishonest of me if I did not do this.
The Moti Affair raised serious breaches of the laws of PNG. And the country’s Prime Minister has been implicated in criminal conduct.
No one else can set the tone and standard of leadership than the Prime Minister. The country’s Prime Minister must be seen to uphold the laws of the country.
The perception that there is one set of laws for the poor and weak, and another for the rich and powerful must be corrected. The important principle that everyone is equal before the law must be upheld and be seen to be promoted especially by the top leaders of the country.
I am not a politician. I have never supported any political party. My only interest is simply this - I am concerned about the poor state of the country in terms of governance and the rich and powerful not respecting the rule of law. The standard of ethics, of leadership example, and the values that we the current generation in control of PNG’s affairs are cultivating and setting for the young people, is very poor.
Sir Michael Somare can correct this by doing the right thing now – by stepping aside as Prime Minister and allow the accusations made against him in the Moti Report to be fully investigated by relevant authorities without fear of repercussions on the part of those whose job it is to do so, real or apprehended. The person who gave evidence of Sir Michael Somare giving the unlawful directions, Joseph Assaigo, has passed on. The other persons who can give evidence to relevant authorities are Leonard Louma and Joshua Kalinoe. Sir Michael Somare ought to step aside as Prime Minister, allow these two men to fully cooperate with the law enforcement agencies so that those who broke the law can be properly dealt with. Otherwise, the breaches of these laws will be forgotten, like many others in the past. Where then is the rule of law? Should we pretend that these things never happened? We cannot. Julian Moti was in PNG. Some individuals broke PNG’s laws and removed him clandestinely from the country. They must be dealt with!
The people have the right to demand, as we did during the Sandline crisis against the then Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, that Sir Michael Somare step aside as Prime Minister.

John Nonggorr
Mt Hagen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Desperate Attempt to Prop-up Ramu Nickel

The people of Raicoast have made history by causing the high level government officials to visit them twice within 4 weeks.

The first was when the deputy prime minister, Madang governor and other government officials who went down to Bongu Village to receive the petition signed by 7000 people of Raicoast opposing DSTP. Today (10th of June 2010)the prime minister Sir Michael Somare, flew to Madang to discuss with the landowners. For the PM and his deputy attend to the same issue within 4 weeks means something.

The PM spoke about how he taught in various districts in Madang during the colonial days as a teacher and that he always wanted the best for Madang and the people of PNG. His talk was basically to draw sympathizers to support the project.
On the other hand, governor Amet appealed to the party that took the injunction to withdraw the court cases and bring the matter to the discussion table and allow the mine to proceed.

This is seen as another desperate attempt to prop-up support for the Ramu Nickel Project. But the people of Raicoast are NOT stupid or ignorant anymore.

Environment (Amendment) Act 2010 ….What it means;

Environment Act 2000

The original Environmental Act 2000 was an excellent piece of state-of-the-art legislation. It came into force and was law on 1 January 2004. It states it is an Act to give effect to the National Goals and Directive Principles, in particular the 4th goal which deals with Natural Resources and Environment and to regulate the environmental impacts of development activities in order to promote sustainable development of the environment and the economic, social and physical well-being of people by safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems for present and future generations and avoiding, remedying and mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment; and to provide for the protection of the environment from environmental harm.

The Environment Act 2000 achieves this by requiring developers such as mining or oil and gas companies to apply for an Environmental Permit if their development is likely to cause environmental harm.

Environmental Permits

The process for an Environmental Permit is lengthy and it is intended to ensure that all stakeholders in development, including landowners, are informed about the activity that the developer proposes to do and its effect on the environment (sections 41 to 73).

So in the case of a proposed large mine, the miner gives notice of the preparatory work for the mine and then the Director (the Secretary of the Department of Environment) gives a notice requiring the miner to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and such assessment must include environmental and social impacts and details of public review of the Environmental Impact Statement(EIS) and the approval in principle of the Minister for Environment and Conservation for the proposed activity. Before submitting the EIS, the miner must give an Inception Report to the Director which is a plan for the EIA and the Director if happy with the Inception report, approves it and the miner can proceed with compiling the EIS and then gives it to the Director.

When the Director receives the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) he must assess it and he may call conferences or seek advice on it but then he must make the EIS available for public review.

When the Director is satisfied that the EIS describes the social and environmental impacts adequately and steps have been taken to minimize environmental harm, he may accept the EIS.

The Director then refers the EIS to the Environment Council along with his report and the public submissions.

When Council receives the EIS it has to consider the EIS , having regard to many matters including objects of the Environmental Act, any environmental harm, public submissions, best practice for the activity, any international treaties etc . If accepted the Environment Council will then make a recommendation to the Minister that approval in principle for the proposed activity be given and they must give written reasons why.
The Minister may then approve or refuse to approve the activity but he must give written reasons for his decision.

Once that approval has been given, the miner can now lodge an application for an Environmental Permit and will submit it along with the Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Director may then grant the permit if he is satisfied that environmental risk has been minimized, the activity will be carried out in accordance with environmental policies and that the activity does not contravene any international treaty, and he shall have regard to a long list of matters including the objects of the Environment Act, the general duty not to cause environmental harm, any public submission, best practice, public interest etc.

The Director can then grant the permit on conditions.

If a person is unhappy with the Director’s decision to grant the Permit, he may apply for a Review of the decision by the Environmental Council, and if he is unhappy with the decision of the Environment Council, he may appeal to the National Court.

Compensation under Environment Act 2000

A permit holder is liable in respect of entry on the land or occupation of the land by the permit holder, to pay compensation for environmental damage he causes as a result of carrying on the acts approved under the permit. Landowners on areas adjourning the land occupied can also get compensation and that is usually drawn up at the beginning as the harm is predicted by the EIS and the EIA. It is done by agreement, and if the parties fail to agree, the Director can make the determination which is appealable to the national Court.

The Environment (Amendment) Act 2010

The amendments introduced by the Environment (Amendment) Act 2010 effectively reverse the protections under the Environment Act 2000 and protect the developer at the expense of the landowners and the environment.

The amendments provide the Director with the power to issue in his sole unfettered discretion authorizations and 4 different types of certificates, which can
1) authorize the miner to do new environmentally hazardous acts not envisaged in the original Permit,
2) exempt the miner from liability from acts done outside the terms of the permit,
3) certify that the miner has somehow complied with the permit by doing certain actions not set out in the permit
4) certify that otherwise preventable environmental harm is “necessary or inevitable” harm and excuse the miner for liability and
5) Certify that what the miner is doing is the best practice environmental practice for the activity.

The Director doesn’t have to consult with anyone (let alone landowners or provincial governments) consider any reports, treaties, the Environment Act 2000 or anything in his decision.

Worse – each of these decisions is specifically spelt out to not be challengeable or reviewable in a court or tribunal.

But worst of all, the amendments state that these decisions and the activities they allow do not form a cause of action in tort or otherwise, or an offence and are not unlawful.

Why is that bad ?

What is a Tort ?

In legal speak, a tort is a civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong. Instead of the perpetrator going to jail, the perpetrator has to pay compensation or is stopped from doing whatever the wrong is. So if a man hits a woman, she can sue him in the tort of battery and seek compensation. Or is a man constantly jumps over another man’s fence and crosses his land without permission, the owner can sue the man for trespass and get an injunction to stop the man from coming onto his land.

So what is a tort in this sense, in the new amendments ? If an activity was conducted under any of these new authorizations or certificates and it caused environmental harm, the landowners could not go to Court and sue to stop the miner from doing the activity. They wouldn’t have any say on the authorization or certificate, would have been kept in the dark until the activity was being performed and then they would be powerless to stop it – however harmful it may be.

The compensation provisions in S87 cover compensation pursuant to the activities under the Permit on land occupied by the permit holder or adjoining such land, but not these new activities under the authorizations. Landowners' rights to compensation for environmental harm which is caused under these authorizations and certificates has been removed.

Factual example: - if Miner A has been dumping mine tailings into a river no 1 under a Permit but decides to start dumping into river no 2 which is not approved under the Permit, and then after 3 years, the landowners along river no 2, 50km from the mine start complaining that their water is always dirty and the fish have disappeared, Miner A could write to the Director to
a) Authorize the activity of dumping into river no 2 for the last 3 years
b) Grant an exemption certificate that Miner A has not been operating outside the now new permit, and
c) Grant a certificate that the dirty river and the disappeared fish are a “necessary or inevitable consequence” of the activity of dumping,

And the Director could issue the authorization and certificates and the landowners couldn’t appeal it, challenge it and they couldn’t sue in nuisance (tort) for an injunction to stop it or for compensation.

It would leave the landowners completely powerless with a dead river.

What specific sections take away landowners’ rights ?

There are 8 new sections which specifically take away everyone’s rights (including landowners’ rights to seek a review of the director’s decision and to sue in tort to protect their land from future or continuing harm and compensation. They are as follows:-

Section 69A. DIRECTOR MAY AUTHORISE ASSOCIATED ACTS

(3) The Director’s decision to grant an authorization is final and may not be challenged or reviewed in any court or tribunal.

Section 69B. ACTIVITY DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A CIVIL CAUSE OF ACTION OR AN OFFENCE

If the Director grants an authorization under Section 69A, the holder of the permit for the associated activity is entitled to carry out that act, or work and the carrying out of that act, work or activity does not constitute a civil cause of action, whether in torts or otherwise, or an offence and is not unlawful.

Section 87A. DIRECTOR MAY GRANT AN EXEMPTION CERTIFICATE

(4) The Director’s decision to issue the Exemption Certificate is final and may not be challenged or reviewed in any court or tribunal.

Section 87B. DIRECTOR MAY ISSUE BEST PRACTICE CERTIFICATE

(4) The Director’s decision to issue the Best Practice Certificate is final and may not be challenged or reviewed in any court or tribunal, except at the instigation of any aggrieved holder of an Authorization Instrument.

Section 87C. DIRECTOR MAY ISSUE CERTIFICATE OF NECESSARY CONSEQUENCE

(4) The Director’s decision to issue the Certificate of Necessary Consequence is final and may not be challenged or reviewed by any court or tribunal, except all the instigation of an aggrieved holder of any Authorization Instrument.

(5) The carrying out of a conduct or proposed conduct, or the occurring of consequences, referred to in a Certificate of Necessary Consequence do not constitute wholly or partly a civil cause of action, whether in torts or otherwise, or an offence and are not unlawful.

Section 87D.DIRECTOR MAY ISSUE A CERTFICATE OF COMPLIANCE

(4) The Director’s decision to issue a Certificate of Compliance is final and may not be challenged or reviewed in any court or tribunal, except at the instigation of an aggrieved holder of any Authorization Instrument.

(5) If carrying out of any act, work or activity that is the subject of a Certificate of Compliance does not constitute wholly or partly a civil cause of action, whether in torts or otherwise, or an offence and is not unlawful.

How do these sections take away landowners’ rights?

These Sections clearly bar access to review by the court and take away an INTERESTED party’s right to sue in tort for compensation for environmental harm or for an injunction to prevent such present or future harm, should the Director in his sole unfettered discretion allow the developer to do an activity that causes environmental harm under his new absolute powers.

It affects “interested parties” as a third party with no interest would have no standing to sue in any event, so the claim by Minister for the Environment Benny Allen that the new amendment Act prevents third parties from interfering in projects is utter nonsense.

The amendments prevent INTERESTED parties from exercising their rights to protect their land.

Landowners are clearly such interested parties. Who else would be suing in tort for prevention for environmental harm ?

MPF Taking the Lead

The Madang People's Forum (MPF) has taken the lead in raising the awareness against the unpopular Environmental Act amendments in Madang. They are expanding the awareness through out all the districts in Madang as a build up to the public stakeholder forum on the 19th of June and the National Protest Day on the 23rd of June 2010.

MPF which is the people's forum in Madang that facilitates and coordinates discussions and action plans on issues affecting landowners, feels that, the changes to the Environmental Act was a direct response to the court challenges and the Bongu petition against the DSTP. Therefore it is taking the lead in raising the awareness in all the districts in Madang.

The 23rd of June will go down in the history books of PNG as the peaceful Madang people will protest against the bill. All ready, the Oro, Morobe, Port Moresby and New Ireland are also preparing for the National Protests which may not fall on the same day as Madang but on days organized by their organizers. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chinese win in Bougainville

The ABG elections came into conclusion as the counting of the various seats were completed. The most anticipated result was the counting for the ABG presidency seat. When the counting closed for the presidency seat and the winner of the seat was declared, it was John Momis, the former Bougainville Regional MP. Mr. Momis defeated the incumbent, James Tanis who many saw as the new leadership catalyst of the rich island. However the return of Mr. Momis into the political leadership throws a lot of doubts into the progress of Bougainville.

Mr. Momis after losing in the first ABG presidential elections was posted on a diplomatic post as the ambassador of PNG to China. Prior to the 2010 elections, Momis brought some Chinese investors to the once troubled islands to explore investment opportunities. However, it would be difficult for the Chinese investment plans without Momis in power. Therefore Momis had to contest the elections.

Despite all the good work Tanis did in his short term in office, the results of the poll went against him. Nevertheless, the people of Bougainville should know that, the Chinese won the president seat and must be prepared to face a new era with a new political empire.

This new political development will be a very difficult struggle for the island that came out of almost a decade long bloody crisis. The islands struggle against the mining giant which resulted in the PNG government fighting its own citizens, will now face a force much stronger than the GoPNG.
So after the bloody crisis where many lives were lost and mostly women and children affected, does it worth to see the island slipping down the same old pathway?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Prime Minister is Lying

The Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare expressed disappointment that the amendment to the Environment Act has been confused and misinterpreted.

Sir Michael said, “No landowner rights have been curtailed by the introduction of this recent amendment to the Environment Act of 2000.

“Project developers must still comply with PNG’s strict environment regulations before permits can be issued by the Department of Environment.

“This rigorous process of compliance safeguards in the first instance the interest of landowners, their land and the environment.

“Having said this, it would be irresponsible of government not to also protect the interest of project developers that have complied with our environment regulations and therefore been issued permits.

“There is a section in the Environment Act of 2000 that allows companies that have already been issued permits to proceed with their developments even though some Acts were repealed as a result of the amendment of 2000.

“The Bill recently introduced by Parliament merely gives clarity and erases doubts on the application and the saving and transition provisions in the Environment Act of 2000.

“The amendment does not mean we have lowered our standards of environmental protection.

“I urge the media and the public to find out the facts and importantly to read and understand legislation in general before issuing misleading statements that cause unnecessary anxiety,” said Sir Michael.

The Prime Minister is NOT telling the Truth!

1 The Prime Minister is LYING when he says that no landowner rights have been removed.

2 The permitting process is still there BUT the changes have been put in there to protect the companies and the government if they make mistakes - either if the government is negligent in permitting something that causes great harm, they can escape liability - and also the companies - if they initially said they wouldn"t cause harm and then do cause harm - they can get out of liability to the landowners.

3 The Act gives sole and absolute power to the Director of the Environment to approve past, present or future environmental harm - no matter how great or small - and get the developers out of liability.

4 That power and his decision is NOT reviewable or challengeable in a Court of Law and the landowners cannot sue for compensation for the past harm or to to prevent any future harm.

5 The landowners have been stripped of their common law and customary rights to go to Court to seek protection from or compensation from such harm AND THAT IS THE PLAIN FACT.

6 A constitutional reference has been filed by the Rai Coast landowners to challenge the new Act for breaches of human rights and for breaching the national goals and directive principles.

7 It is clear either the Prime Minister has received bad advice and should sack whoever is advising him or is deliberately lying to the people on this issue and we suggest he reads the Act for himself.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Force it out Now or you'll be sorry tomorrow

The PNG government is running this country with total madness.There is absolute negligence of its purpose, mandate, function and responsibility has seen in the recent amendment to the Environmental Act 2000.

The Amendment basically removed the powers of the people as landowners to sue the state and the companies on environmental damages. This amendment was done in the light of the legal challenge lounged by the people of Raicoast against the Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP). Based on scientific reports stating that the impacts of the tailings would cause a severe impact on the marine ecosystem along the Madang coastlines including Karkar and Bagabag islands, the Raicoast landowners took an injunction in court to stop the consstruction of the DSTP system.

The Raicoast people also petitioned the government against the DSTP. The government and the Chinese miner have been blaming the NGOs for instigating the resistance. However, despite the court proceedings and the petition, the government decided to change the law to legalize its action and remove the powers of landowners to take court action on issues relating to environmental concerns.

The new amendment to the Environmental Act 2000, is a worst legislation and against the spirit of democracy, human rights and the constitution of PNG. With this amendment, the government literally removed democracy.It is becoming obvious that the government has become a "puppet" of CMCC and Exxon Mobil.

Right across the country there is public outcry against this amendment. If that Act is not repealed, the government is simply asking for trouble as there is so much tension and pressure building up and will explode any minute. NOW is the time to force the government to repeal the amendment. Now is the time to challenge this dictatorship. If we fail to force the government to repeal the amendment-Goodbye Democracy. PNG get ready for the worst to come!

Removing the buffer on the eve of the World Environment Day



 The core strength to environmental protection in PNG is the customary land tenure system and the fact that the environmental act before the amendments considered landowners traditional rights and protected it under the law. That has been my view every since I watched a film (forgot the title) in my environmental science class at the university of PNG as a final year student.
That video was about a medical scientist doing research on traditional medicine somewhere in the Amazon forest. The medical scientist spent 10 years of research with an indigenous tribe that lives in that forest area. The research involved traditional and indigenous knowledge of various plants, barks, roots and leaves.
One day the government decided to sell the land to a company who decide to clear fell the forest and build a cattle ranch. Without warning or negotiation with the indigenous tribe who lives in that forest area, the company dispatched heavy machinery clear fell the forest and burn it at the same time. It was the fire that destroyed the indigenous village and the research centre. The forest people lost their homes and everything while the medical research work for 10 years was completely destroyed.
Two things came to my mind as I was watching the film in my class.
1.       Firstly, that indigenous forest community did not have their traditional rights protected under the law of their country and therefore their government did whatever it pleased and it was non-negotiable. There was no consultation and there was no free prior informed consent. Therefore, that forest community was forced to evacuate their traditional village without any form of compensation or relocation plans from their government.
2.       Secondly, the 10 years of medical research based on traditional and indigenous knowledge of forest people which would have resulted in the cure for various diseases we have today was destroyed in the furnace.
That film inspired me to be a strong advocate of customary land protection in PNG and I have always referred to many times especially in discussions on environmental protection and customary lands.
The fact that the government and the companies in PNG had to go through a lot of hassles to deliberate on landowners’ issues which is in fact an impediment to their progress, but from the landowners’ perspective, it is a ‘buffer’. That buffer provides for the avenue for all negotiations with consent landowners with regard to any project development and that includes issues relating to environment. By removing the traditional land rights of landowners from taking legal action on environmental damage will escalate environmental impacts by project developers.  
I feel it is not wise to remove this important buffer by changing the Environmental Act. The government should be representing the interest of its people and not foreign investors. Given the fact that the number one crisis affecting and threatening both the rich and poor nation in the world is directly related to environmental issues now resulting in global warming and climate change. Therefore it is the last thing; we want to see our government going down the track of environmental irresponsibility especially on the eve of June 5 –the World Environment Day.  
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