"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Contextualising Recent Landowner Protests in Port Moresby

Recent rowdy protests in Port Moresby by landowners affected by the LNG PNG project has elicited criticism in the social media. There seems to be the impression that landowners are motivated by greed, rather than confusion and concern. The following section from a 2010 review of the excellent Aidwatch publication In Defence of Melanesian Land, provides useful context in understanding why landowners are protesting so loudly at present. It is written by Kirk Huffman - LNG Watch PNG

Regarding the Environmental Impact Study done for the PNG LNG project in the Gulf area, an environmentalist employed by the Gulf Provincial Government has said that the impact assessments paper done by the developer would, if presented in countries like Australia, Canada or the US, be used as 'toilet paper'.

Looking at the actual formal agreement between the PNG government and the developers for the LNG project, Dr Allan Marat (former PNG Attourney-General and Justice Minister) has said, 'This gas agreement was drawn up overseas. It was taken away from our government negotiating team and structured overseas. And now we are forced to dance to the music of foreigners.'

It is not, however, only foreigners to blame. In the race to get the LNG project going as quickly as possible, the customary land registration pressure is immense, and many Melanesians are worried or holding back any form of agreement. In May 2010 Pepi Kimas, the PNG Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning, tried to reassure landholders with the words 'Customary land registration is not going to remove land from customary land owners, its about them registering their land to develop and create wealth for themselves and their families'.

A month before he issued this statement, it had been reported that the PNG government Department of Petroleum, responsible for paying out regular agreed fees for land use for other similar and already ongoing projects, had been breaching the terms of the Oil and Gas Act by not regularly paying many landowners their monthly royalties. The accounts were said to be in a chaotic state, and some potential recipients, in the Gobe and Kutubu areas, were said to have had no payments listed since December 2007. 


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