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:-


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


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.


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


(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.


(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.


(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.  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Raicoast don't need Ramu Nico

The newly elected Raicoast MP, Mr. Joe Gau defended fervently that, the Ramu Nickel Mine project is needed for the much needed services for his constituency. He claimed that without the mine, it will be practically impossible for him to deliver tangible services to his electorate and blames NGOs and outsiders for sabotaging the progress of the mine.  

Mr. Gau, the Raicoast people have been denied for service delivery mainly due to issues surrounding the vacancies of its national MP post due to various reasons. The last thing the people of Raicoast want to hear is their MP confused about who is responsible for service delivery and development in their electorate. Mr. Gau fails to understand that the prime objective of the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (CMCC) is to extract the Nickel and make profit and it is NOT their business to serve the people of Raicoast. All service and development deliveries is the responsibility of the government of which Mr. Gau is part of.    

First of all, Mr. Gau don't lie to the Raicoast people that, you need the money from the mine to deliver services and development. How will you get the money when in fact the government gave CMCC 10 years tax holiday? Mr. Gau there will not be any tax for the next 10 years, and who knows whether you will still remain in power after the 10 years lapsed.

Secondly, Mr. Gau, the political party and the government which you are a member of cannot lie to the people of Raicoast. What about the K40 million stole by senior a NA MP and minister and banked in a private bank account in Singapore? What about he K780 million stolen by lawyers, accountants, MPs and public servants unveiled by the finance inquiry? These monies should have been used for the delivery of the much needed service and development in Raicoast and other areas in PNG as well.

Thirdly, Mr. Gau, with the experiences of the mining industry in PNG with OK Tedi, Bougainville Copper, Porgera, Missima and Lihir where is the evidence of development and service delivery of these mines? There is absolutely nothing to show and don't lie to the people of Raicoast that the Ramu Nico project will deliver.

Mr Gau, Raicoast does not need the rich wealth to develop, it needs a leadership with the richness in wisdom to lead and you show that you already lack this requirement. And don't tell the people of Raicoast, they need China to develop-Raicoast does not need any CMCC or mining to develop.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Raicoast Leaders Gate Crashed at Governor's Office and Demanded Response to Petition

The Raicoast leaders gate crashed at the Madang Governor's office yesterday (1st of June 2010) and demanded Governor Amet to give them a feedback since the 21 days of their petition lapsed on the 30th of May 2010.

The petition organizer and anti-DSTP campaigner, George Ireng apologized for gate crashing, however, he said that, the 7000 people from Raicoast who signed the petition are waiting a response and the 21 days has lapsed the previous day and the people are kept in suspense and want to know whats happening.  

Madang Governor, Sir Arnold Amet said, he is not moved by the petition and will not be threatened to respond within any time frame, however, he said he honored the petition and will respond in due course.

He promised the landowners to respond in two days to the second demand in the petition which asked for an independent study to verify the impacts. He said he will have to get in touch with the deputy prime minister to make an undertaking to ensure the independent study is carried out. 

Mr. Amet also said that he ha been in touch with  scientists from Madang and PNG who are qualified to engage them in the desk review of the Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) Report (also referred to as the Lutheran Church Report), the various government reports and the SAMS (Scottish Association of Marine Science) report. Mr. Amet said he is still reading the MPI Report and needs more credible scientific advice before he makes a decision.

The SAMS report is supposed to be the independent study which was commissioned by the government, however, the government has not moved on getting the report finalized and published. The Bongu petition was done in the light of the absence of the SAMS report, however, on the day of the presentation of the petition to the government, Mr. Ireng received a copy of the report which the deputy prime minister, Mr. Puka Temu said was still a draft. Mr, Temu said that he will ensure the final payment of K100, 000 is paid to SAMS within two weeks so that the report can be finalized and released. That has not happened, however the government decided to change the Environmental Act instead two days before the Bongu petition lapsed. .

Mr. Ireng, raised the question about the new amendment to the Environmental Act and what is the governors position. He said it was a direct insult to the people from Raicoast who in good faith followed the right procedures to raise the concern and the government goes to the back of the people and amend the law. Mr. Amet said he is not clear with the new legislative changes and will require time to read and understand it before saying anything. He reminded the landowners that, as the former judge, he doesn't jump quickly into conclusion. That has always been his line of excuses- Is he telling his constituency the truth?

Is Governor Amet telling the truth? Is he not one of the best legal brains in the NA camp and therefore provides legal opinions to the party caucus? Is he really negligent to have no say at all when he is in the government and the amendments  highlighted  the landowners from Ramu Nickel halting the progress of the project?....Let the people of Madang decide!!!!