‘We were conned’

Main Stories, National


LANDOWNERS in the Southern Highlands province are becoming increasingly frustrated with the National Government over funds promised to them, and their lack of participation in the early works of the PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.
Landowners were promised K120 million in seed capital funding to start up businesses for their involvement in the massive project.
It was because of this, and other financial commitments including K600 million for impact projects in the province this year, that they signed the umbrella and later the licenced-based benefits sharing agreements.
The signing represented the “green light” from them for the project to go ahead. 
Landowner leaders and even Government MPs spoken to admitted that the Government had promised 20% of the seed capital up front, but has failed to deliver.
“It is very disappointing for them, and I can understand,” a Government minister said.nFrom Page 1
“Even the Department of Petroleum is so disorganised and not helping the landowners,” the minister added.
With the engineering, procurement and construction contracts (EPC) already determined, the landowners feel they will be spectators in their own land.
Some quickly negotiated and formed joint venture partnerships with foreign partners were now bidding for sub-contracts from the EPC contractors.
Yesterday, one group of landowners demanded not only their share of the K120 million, but also wanted the seed capital increased to K500 million.
The landowner representatives said after the Kokopo signing, they had realised that K120 million was not enough to divide among all registered landowner companies.
Chairman of the meeting and landowner Albert Mokai said no agreement or nomination of umbrella companies were made in Kokopo.
“We are here to cooperate and participate, but we want the agreement to be in our terms also and the State must respect the people,” Mr Mokai said.