Landowners demand COI

National

MANUMANU and Gabadi landowners in Central want a full commission of inquiry instead of the administrative inquiry set up by the National Executive Council to investigate allegations surrounding the compulsory acquisition of portions of land to establish a PNG Defence Force naval base.
Manumanu Landowner Group chairman John Daroa and Gabadi Landowner Group chairman Rev John Ovia, in a joint statement, said they did not want investigations to be done through an administrative inquiry.
“We are utterly concerned to learn from the media that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has reduced the strength of this inquiry from a commission of inquiry to an administrative inquiry which we believe will not hold any perpetrators accountable for their actions,” they said. Daroa and Ovia said that O’Neill must act on his word for a commission of inquiry to be set up to investigate the allegations.
They demanded a commission of inquiry (COI) because a COI has legal powers to summon witnesses to testify and call for documents to be tendered during its proceedings.
A COI is a public inquiry with a much wider scope hence its proceedings will not be conducted in private and its final report will go to Parliament for debate and scrutiny based on its findings and recommendations.
They also demanded written responses from O’Neill to their initial correspondences of Feb 8 and Feb 20.
They called on the Prime Minister to fulfil his initial promise that he would return the land in question to the customary landowners, the same way he returned Woodlark Island in Milne Bay to its customary landowners.
They said if all above fails they would file a formal complaint to the Ombudsman Commission and the Fraud Squad to investigate the matter.
The portions of land are referred to as portions 154, 406, 421, 422, 423 and 424 of Manu.

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