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.


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.

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.