By PEARSON KOLO
LANDOWNERS of gas fields in the Southern Highlands have demanded to know why the function of LNG matters was separated from the petroleum and energy ministry, held by William Duma, and given to Climate Change Minister Francis Potape.
Leaders from the area feel the appointment of Potape, who is from the electorate hosting the project, poses a potential for conflict of interest and bias.
The leaders aired their views in a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday, after learning that the LNG matters function, stripped from Potape and returned to Duma two weeks ago by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, was returned to Potape.
The leaders are from the Tuguba, Hiwa Wita, Arua and Pina clans from the LNG project areas.
They expressed their disappointment and gave Sir Michael 14 days to explain why Potape was reinstated as minister assisting in LNG matters just a week after his removal.
They questioned what wrongs Duma did for the LNG function to be given to Potape.
The chiefs, led by Anoli Mituba, from the Hiwa clan, and Himuni Homogo, from the Tuguba clan, jointly said what had progressed so far in the LNG project since the Kokopo BSA and LBBSA agreements last year could not be continued by Potape.
“The government made many commitments with the landowners and Duma has facilitated them well for the landowners to benefit.
“These are likely to be hindered with the change,” Thomas Taku, from the Arua clan of Juha, claimed.
Taku said the landowners had seen enough delays and they did not want the change of responsibility from Duma to Potape to cause more delays in their beneficiaries and participations.
“We, the landowners, see no problem in the way William Duma is dealing with LNG and there is no need for change,” the chiefs stressed.
The landowner leaders said they did not trust their own Southern Highlands MPs because they were involved in the provincial and district politics.
“There will be widespread nepotism in handling of MoA funds and other landowner benefits including minor civil contracts.
“Political preferences will come into play, and landowners will be affected. Frustrations from this can lead to real trouble at the project sites.
“That is why we feel Duma is neutral and is the right man,” Homogo said.