My dear Dr. Maima your article is interesting. But that is all. Both you and Peter Donigi are irresponsible and destructive in your creation of false hopes for our people. Your propositions are not new. They have been asserted, and can be asserted and debated long and hard into the night, as happened in the past. At the end of the day, we have to do what is right and what is responsible for the nation State to survive and prosper. We cannot assert ourselves and our rights by our Constitution, at the same time, deny nationhood and the fecundity of life of a nation perpetuated by the Constitution. We either exist as a nation or we don't. If we exist as a nation by virtue of our Constitution, then that Constitution reserves the right of ownership of the natural resources to us as a nation, not a single group.
The resources you speak of belong to the State, by the very Constitution that created the nation State. That is, the resources belong not just to one group of landowners or defined Province. They belong to all PNGians. The State only plays a nominal custodian role.
Unfortunately we have two distinct problems. Firstly we have yet to come up with an equitable formula that recognizes the State's custodianship that is consistent with our hopes and aspirations as a people. The 22.5% in hydrocarbons and 30% in minerals, usually carried is inadequate, and is rife with operating companies cheating the State and Landowners.
Secondly we have yet to come up with a formula that adequately rewards/compensates access to surface of land, to enable accessibility of these resources. Thus our people are treated like lepers by successive governments and politicians, and developers.
Both of these problems revolve around the question of leadership and management of our nation and its resources. Both you and Peter Donigi are part of that problem. You have failed to create a formula that is consistent with us as a people asserting our rights and obligations to each other by virtue of our Constitution. The very Constitution you seek to rely on for certain rights is tempered and balanced by our social and economic duties, responsibilities and obligations to each other. To assert rights without balancing with obligations to the nation State is inconsistent with the spirit and tenor of the Constitution. Both you and Peter Donigi fail miserably before you start. You think your rights matter, but tell me do they exist in a vacuum or in thin air? You are seeking to cut off your noses despite your ugly faces, and how brave are you!
No you are absolutely and fundamentally misleading our people. Yes, before the white man came a long we had customary rights and customary ownership concepts of various resources. Jared Diamond speaks of the age of guns, germs and steel, of the advancement of stone age man and why some societies advanced more than others. We had some use of the resources we are dealing with now by custom, and in some customary setting we may rightfully claim we have had continuing rights to these resources. For example, in the Highlands we used seeped oil for bodily decorations, traded in long bamboo containers throughout Southern Highlands to Western Highlands. Whilst we havent struck the metal age we did have use for obsidian tools and implements.
However, does these forms of use of our resources give every individual or clan or tribal group a continuing right to ownership or exploitation of these resources in the sense as envisaged in the Mining or Oil and Gas Legislation?
The answer is NO. Peter Donigi, Michael Wilson and Dr Maima, read my lips...the answer is NO!
Why is that? The answer is very simple. When we became a nation in 1975 by virtue of this Constitution, we as a people of Papua New Guinea entered into a social, or legal contract with each other, so to speak. We surrendered our rights as a people of various distinct groupings to become a nation. We went from being separate small nations to embrace a bigger one nation. We agreed to be bound by a new set of laws and a new Constitution. To the extent that the Constitution provided for a certain way to own and deal with resources such as our hydrocarbon and mineral resources, we have surrendered them to the State.
Yes, the precedents for such conduct is founded in early English laws and practices. However ours is solidly founded on our Constitution. So fundamentally, Peter Donigi, Michael Wilson or any other person, including you my dear Doc cannot approach the National Court and ask it to denounce or make pronouncements on something we have already agreed upon by our very existence. The very existence of the National Court is by virtue of the Constitution. The very existence of our rights or absence of rights is by virtue of the Constitution. You are seeking to tamper with what is a sacred stone of nationhood. If we deny this social contract given effect to by the Constitution, we admit we never became a nation. If we never became a nation, there is no constitution or law or court before which we can legitimately assert or claim any rights. Thereafter, Peter Donigi and Michael Wilson begin to look and sound more and more absurd.
If you smart guys want to be recognised or become useful, I suggest you wake up every morning and pick up all the plastic bags that are washed up overnight by the tide. You will do this nation a great favor. We might even give you my good Doc, and the two dreamers of Kanudi some medals...perhaps an extra one for Michael Wilson for sitting too long in the sun.
As for all the minerals on my land, I am happy to acknowledge that they belong to the State on behalf of the people of PNG, and all I want is a fair compensation for use of my land and fair equity through a transparent legislative scheme. That fairness is yet to occur under current arrangements.