Abal: Payments in two weeks at project sites

National, Normal

The National – Monday, January 31, 2011

DEPUTY Prime Minister and minister responsible for handling all LNG-related issues with landowners Sam Abal has assured disgruntled project area landowners from Hides, Angore, Juha, Gobe and Moran that all their outstanding payments will be paid out in two weeks time.
He made it clear that all payments would be made at the various project sites, and not in Port Moresby.
“All MoA, outstanding seed capital and ministerial commitment funds will be paid in two weeks time. That is the position of the government,” Abal said.
He gave the undertaking last Friday at the Unagi oval in Port Moresby while receiving a petition containing a log of claims of memorandum of agreement funds, ministerial commitment funds, seed capital and others from aggrieved LNG project area landowners.
He said the government would only pay legitimate commitments. The deputy prime minister also appealed for honesty among landowners.
Abal said Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare was concerned about the LNG issues and that it was a matter of priority for the government to find money and pay all genuine outstanding commitments.
He stressed that although there was no budget for ministerial commitments.
They would still have to find money to fulfil the commitments made by the ministers.
He also made it clear that all payment would be made at the various project sites as per a National Executive Council decision.
Abal said if the system was functioning well, there should be no problem.
He said he had to sit down with the government, PNG LNG project developer ExxonMobil and landowners to come to terms and iron out issues once and all.
“My duty is to sit down and deliberate with ExxonMobil, the government and the aggrieved landowners to find a way out.
“All ministers will also have to sit down and prepare all issues and present them to the government, and to ExxonMobil where it concerns the company.”
The deputy prime minister’s pledge to make all payments at project sites, however, did not go down well with the landowners.
Thomas Gamu, spokesperson for the aggrieved landowners, told Abal that if the NEC decided that way, then NEC should charter about 20 planes to repatriate all landowners home.
“The government brought us here and they must send us back,” Gamu said.
The content of the petition, among others, called for:
*Pay all landowners as petitioned in accordance with project submissions within 14 days;
*Ensure the monies set aside for this purpose last year was not brought forward for this year’s allocation or sent to the consolidated revenue or to any other commitments;
*Government to ensure, in future, this practice was not repeated; and
*MoA payments not to be made through MRDC.