This is an open letter to the new Minister for Petroleum

by BUI WETAU

Firstly, on behalf of the resource owners, especially those in oil & gas industry, I applaud your appointment as we believe you will provide a much better leadership that will benefit both the investors and the landowners.

Just for your information, the previous O'Neill Government has been very, very, very cruel to the landowners that we prayed very hard for his dismissal from office and he just got served. Further, the responsible Ministers who were working under him have been equally responsible for making the poor landowners suffer so they too will face natural justice and we have just seen it happen.

Our dear Minister, please be reminded that the landowners, who actually own the land on which the historic PNG LNG Gas project is located, have been forcefully made to suffer while the previous Government under the leadership of Peter Oneil went about diverting all landowner benefits to areas where he could benefit from. The poor landowners, who had unconditionally offered the land for national interest; land that has been the source of their food, water, medicine, shelter, strength and identity since time immortal, have never been properly compensated for their genuineness and most of our chiefs and elders who had put pen on paper initially to progress the multibillion kina project have died terrible deaths on the streets of Port Moresby whilst Peter Oneil and his Ministers continued to dine and enjoyed their red wines in five star hotels worldwide and also at the Airways and Grand Papua Hotels. This is despite ongoing requests by the landowners to release the different categories of benefits that still remain unpaid to date. The only excuse they have used was that proper clan vetting was required but what did they do to resolve that as an issue since 2009. Nil! That means they always wanted to use that as an excuse to divert funding allocated for the landowners since 2009 for their own use.

For your information our dear Minister, K120 million allocated annually in the National Budget since 2009 under the Department of Treasury to pay the landowners by virtue of the UBSA/LBBSA Agreements as Infrastructure Development Grants (IDG) to the landowners has always been diverted by the O'Neill annually since 2009 for their own benefit with the lame excuse of incomplete clan vetting as their justification for diverting the funds. The K120 million IDG Allocation, apportioned into the nine PDL Areas, was to run for ten years since 2009 and this is a staggering K1.2 billion that the State now owes the landowners.

Added to that, the State also owes the landowners in cash benefits another K152 million in outstanding LBBSA benefits. This is from a K235 million initially promised and allocated to the brownfield landowners (PDL1 - PDL7, plus the GTE) for the landowners acceptance of the LNG Gas Project to be accommodated within the existing Agreement.

Sir, please take note that our own people have unfairly treated for this long and it makes no logic that we will continue to suffer in this manner. What have we done to deserve this treatment?

Therefore, we the landowners call upon you as the Minister responsible now to source some urgent funding from the Government and immediately pay the K152 million in outstanding LBBSA benefits so that the landowners as equal partners to the historic LNG Gas project will start something new in preparation for our lives beyond the gas and oil era as we are currently are most poorest category of people in PNG after false hopes drained out what little we initially had as ordinary citizens.

Please, it is correct for us to let you know slso that we have been over burdened by so much debts as we have been living off from borrowed finances and other resources hoping the Government would sort us out as intended following the promises from the 2009 Kokopo based Agreements. About 95% of our leaders and elders who met their fate in terrible conditions whilst in Port Moresby were as a result of the pressure from their creditors who were breathing down their throats almost every day to settle their bills. This is still ongoing and more are dying.

As such, this call comes at a time when Oil Search has agreed in a separate meeting to assist the Government provide the K152 million in cash advanced TCS funding to assist mitigate ongoing landowner concerns and what the company requires is a Government direction directing Oil Search to cash advance the TSC funding. Therefore, what is required now is a Cabinet Decision directing Oil Search to advance the funding towards paying the landowners so the ball is now in your court to get the Department of Petroleum into motion to prepare the necessary instruments (NEC Submission) to be sponsored by yourself so that the poor landowners can be able to comfortably sort their debts out and get their normal life back as they are living through hell at the moment with all those commitments.

Whilst doing so, appropriate provisions can be in future years Budgets to settle the outstanding IDG grants which armount to K1.2 billion in total.

We pray and have total trust in you to act responsibly to assist us as equal participants of the historic PNG LNG Gas Project.

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