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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chan takes government to task

ONE of Papua New Guinea’s richest mining electorate is calling on the national government to immediately release outstanding mining grants or will be forced to pay more.

Namatanai electorate in the New Ireland province which houses the multi-billion Lihir and Simberi goldmines is in support of the provincial government’s numerous calls made previously for the national government to release over K400 million in share benefits under the Lihir Mine Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

Under the MOA much of which have been pre-assigned to fund major economic, social and infrastructure development projects and programs under the Malagan Declaration are being withheld by the national government.

Local MP for Namatanai Byron Chan angry over the delay told people in his electorate during the recently concluded Sixth Namatanai 2010 Mask Festival that the government will have no choice but will pay more than just K400 million.

“If the government does not pay up the outstanding MOA funds where the provincial government is fighting for, I will demand the government to pay more than K400 million.

“I will make sure they will double or triple the amount. I’m not talking about hundreds of millions of kina, I’m demanding billions because they treat us as little kids and yet we hold the country,” the member said.

Mr Chan noted that Namatanai holds Papua New Guinea through mining operations such as the multi-billion Lihir and Simberi goldmine which contribute nearly K500 million annually to the national government’s purse and it is unfair for the national government not to reciprocate.

Lihir is worth K75 billion (A$35 billion) on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) while Simberi is worth K250 million (A$125) on the ASX. The stock exchanges in Australia tells Papua New Guinea how much we are worth and it’s over K75 billion and where is the government’s backing, the MP queried.

The member also called on the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to pay up the promised K30 million outstanding monies for the provincial government for projects in Namatanai and Kavieng districts.

“That was one month ago and Prime Minister committed K30 million. However, to date that is not happening and its two months now. At this time I demand the Prime Minister to honour commitments he made. Why should we be treated differently or why should we be treated with contempt?”

Mr Chan added if the government can allocate K600 million for developments in provinces that host the multi-billion (K40 billion) PNG LNG project such as the Southern Highlands, Enga and Gulf then what about Namatanai and Kavieng  or New Ireland which has K75 billion Lihir project at its backyard.

“Somare’s (Sir Michael) government does not recognize us in this regard and I’m going to demand this government to pay up because there is Lihir review and urged the Landowners of Lihir to stand united with people in Namatanai and Kavieng to demand the government to pay up all the monies it owed.  The Namatanai JDP has already endorsed a submission to Lihir and the Provincial Executive Council for K1.5 billion. And if the government does not accept this, it’s up to them now.”

Meanwhile, New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan echoed similar sentiments noting protracted power outages in Kavieng, strained medical service and government cash flow constraints since the start of the New Year, a disgusted Sir Julius directed his anger at the Prime Minister, the relevant Government ministers and the senior public servants accusing them of negligence, lying, misappropriation, misconduct and corruption."
Sir Julius further accused the National Government and the state bureaucracy of deliberate sabotage of projects clearly planned and outlined in the Malagan Declaration and the last three provincial budgets.

"We cannot allow the National Government to continue to insult and exploit our people. No more must we allow government ministers and bureaucrats to divert and misappropriate our inheritance," he said.

"These people are in direct violation of the National Goals and Principles of derivation in forcing us to our knees to beg them for what is rightfully ours, derived from our soil. How can they in their right mind, be so inconsiderate in not remembering the suffering we have gone through; the cultural destruction, increased social disruption and invasion of our rights to peaceful existence that once exist."

The Provincial Government has consistently over the last three years petitioned the National Government for the funds to be released as the planned major projects to impact the province's development and the lives of the people are being delayed beyond acceptable limits.
The Prime Minister himself promised during the an official visit of the province, a year ago in February 2009 publicly announced before the Provincial Assembly that he will honour and release K92 million from the outstanding Lihir MOA funds to support the province's budget to allow work to commence on major development and infrastructural impact projects. These projects are incorporated in the Lihir MOA but have been neglected since 1997."

Sir Julius pointed out that while Sir Michael did in fact direct the various arms of government to facilitate the payment of K92 million of the 14 years outstanding benefits, he and his government must accept culpability for the diversion and misappropriation of the New Ireland people's money to buy the expensive government toys such as the personal Falcon Jet and other dubious expenditure.

"Sir Michael's failure to deliver on his promise resulted in a deficit of K65 million in the 2009 provincial budget. This is political assassination of the worst kind. I have never isolated any province or groups during my reign. In fact the Sepik provinces had received special consideration in my time from roads to schools, agriculture and health services. Why now should he choose to belittle New Ireland, the hen that lays the eggs?”

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