"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

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Landowner challenge to PNG LNG Goes to Supreme Court

Patrick Talu, Post Courier, 30 May 2012

ESSO Highlands Ltd (EHL), the ExxonMobil subsidiary operator of the PNG LNG Project, has welcomed the outcome of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling which granted EHL leave for appeal against a National Court decision in favor of PNG LNG Agreement Challenger Simon Ekanda.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s (yesterday) court case. This means that there will be an appeal before three judges of the Supreme Court to determine whether or not the trial judge should have heard our application for early strike out of the case,’’ said EHL Lead Media and Communication Advisor Rebecca Arnold told the Post-Courier yesterday when asked to comment on the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. “We expect this to take place in the next few months.’’

A single bench Supreme Court Judge, Justice George Manuhu ruled that Mr Ekanda’s counsel’s objections to the leave for appeal were of no merits, saying that ARD Rules 4 (3) (a) and (b) would have been considered together for legal consideration during the decision at National Court.
Mr Haiara objected among others that EHl had not satisfied the ADR Rules in particular Rules 4 (3) (a) (b) which stipulates; unless (a) the parties establish to the courts satisfaction that the meritorious issues exist warranting judicial consideration and determination and (b) the application for leave establishes to the satisfaction of the court that it has made a real and good faith effort to resolving the dispute through mediation supported by a certificate by a mediator in Form1.

Despite this, both Mr Haiara and Mr Ekanda also welcomed the ruling, saying “it’s good for us rather than for them (EHL). “If we are to go to (Alternative Dispute Resolution), it would be win-win situation for all us.  “Now that they want to proceed with the courts, we are happy to meet them at the court as they have not proven to both the National and Supreme Court that EHL has a meritorious case in the proceeding.” Mr Ekanda said this to the reporters at the Court House after the ruling.
Mr Ekanda argues that the landowners were not consulted over the terms of the Gas Agreement.
EHL and State through the Department of Petroleum and Energy argue that Mr Ekanda and his landowners have no standing in the PNG LNG Project agreement, saying the landowners were represented by the local level and provincial government.

However, Mr Haiara proved that under Section 115 (2) on the Organic Law on Local Level and Provincial Government stipulates and give rights to the landowner to be consulted by the National Government and developer. He argues that that has never happened and the entire agreement was illegal. Mr Haiara also indicated that when the matter proceeds in the Supreme Court, he would apply for a restraining order to stop all operation in the project sites as they would be illegally trespassing before it was determined by the Supreme Court. The direction for the hearing on the matter before a three-bench Supreme Court is scheduled for the June 4.

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