By MALUM NALU
HERALDED as a grounding-breaking occasion, all leaders of the six Butibam village clans of Lae came together in unity and solidarity to sign a historic memorandum of understanding last month.
This MOU is a milestone occasion that heralds resurrection of rightful inheritance and lineage of the Lae City administration land which includes the Lae Port land and the new Tidal Basin development.
It strategically positions the people of Butibam and other impacted stakeholders from the three Labu villages – Labu Tale, Labu Miti, and Labu Butu – and Ahi villages of Kamkumung, Wagang and Yanga to also join in unity and solidarity to negotiate optimum benefit from the new port reform operations by one single terminal operator under a 25-year contract signed by the National Government.
“The Butibam People, the underlying owners of the Lae Port land and other affected villages, are displaced, disenfranchised, marginalised and suffer social, economic, ecological, and environmental damage and distress through exploitation of the Lae City land and the redeveloped Lae Port land,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
They have entered into an agreement of mutual cooperation, and enterprising endeavor with the objective to provide leadership, coordination, cohesion, formal structure, and unity among the people and other stakeholders.
This is to leverage, negotiate and ensure optimum involvement and participation in the economic activity and commercial operations of Lae Port on land described as Portion 508 (commonly referred to as ‘Lae Port Land’).
“Secondly, the MOU is intended to inform the Government of Papua New Guinea, Morobe provincial government and Lae and Ahi local level governments, processes and structures towards a development approach that creates the framework for effective mobilisation and participation of Butibam People,” the leaders said.
“In particular, inclusive community-driven initiatives designed to achieve tangible and sustainable development in and on ‘Lae Port Land’.
“It also enables Government organisational processes and structures to be responsive and supportive of the efforts of land owners in realising tangible and sustainable development.
“Thirdly, to effectively engage in dialogue based on mutual respect, honesty and trust, with the Government of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and its primary instrumentalities such as Kumul Consolidated Holdings and the lead statutory and regulatory agency, PNG Ports Corporation Ltd.
“Finally, to effectively engage in dialogue and negotiations of land owner equity with the terminal operator, International Container Terminal Services, based on mutual respect, honesty, trust, and spontaneous reciprocity.”
The other significant feature of this MOU is that the five clans of Butibam – Wapicguhu, Agactu, Apo, Gwatu and Tumata – have asserted and reaffirmed collectively and unequivocally, that the ‘Lae Port Land’ was originally owned by the Busulum Clan of Butibam.
“This entreaty, recognition and unanimity of legitimacy of traditional land ownership of ‘Lae Port Land’ by the Busulum clan is, strictly, in accordance and in conformity with the customs and traditional lineage and genealogy of the people from Butibum village sanctioned by the land laws and Courts of Papua New Guinea, anthropological records, historical annals and records of colonial administration, and the Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea,” the leaders said.
“It is further sanctioned and formalised, conclusively and irrefutably, by the courts of Papua New Guinea.”
These were the National Court of Papua New Guinea in the case of: Gaiya Nomgui – V – The Administration of 1971 per Kelly. J; the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea in the case of Gaiya Nomgwi – V – The Administration 1974; Papua New Guinea Law Report (PNGLR) 349; and the decisions of the District Land court dated Sept 20, 2002 and reaffirmed by the National Land Court of Papua New Guinea dated Aug 29, 1996.
“In short, we want to rise above parochial self-interest and greed, incessant infighting based on illogical and irrational premises or reasons and do what is right in the eyes of God, our traditional lineage and genealogy, and the Constitution and laws of our country based on principles of natural justice and equality for all,” the leaders said.
“Finally, the Butibam leaders commend the National Government for this important strategic reform of port operations.
“If implemented well, the port reform has far-reaching benefit for business and the economy and people of Papua New Guinea.
“The Butibam village leaders pledge that we will play our part, within our capability, to cooperate and collaborate with PNG Ports Corporation Ltd and the new terminal operator, International Container Terminal Services.
“However, we also owe it to our people to preserve and reserve our lawful right and privileges under the Constitution and laws of Papua New Guinea for legal recourse if we are unjustly treated and our rights are subjugated.”
By MALUM NALU