Fighting over Western money


THE PNG government has lost its court battle to take ownership and control of the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Programme (PNGSDP) and its assets worth US$1.4 billion.
Having lost the court battle against PNGSDP, it is now appealing against the decision.
Whatever the outcome may be, the reality is that the development interest of the people of Western will never be protected either by PNGSDP or the government.
Unless the people of Western rise up, PNGSDP and Ok Tedi Mine issues will be continuously used by PNGSDP and the government for their own vested interests.
The people of Western need to unite and determine a way forward in the PNGSDP saga and demand the custodians for greater representation, participation and transparency.
However, a common voice cannot be achieved for the province because there are many factions within the province over this issue.
More importantly the onus lies in Western’s political leaders to mobilise the people of Western to come up with a way forward.
Political will is vital to address this issue.
The political leaders need to begin the process of mobilising the people by talking to the community leaders in Western who have played instrumental roles over the years in the Ok Tedi Mine environmental pollution issue.
For example, the plaintiffs in the Ok Tedi Mine, community leaders, past political and administrative leaders, who have one way or another contributed to the partial ownership of Ok Tedi Mine and various benefit streams accruing to the province such as PNGSDP and compensation schemes need to be consulted.
A working committee should be established comprising of these leaders who will be supported by the politicians to consult widely in the province with the objective to ultimately draft a way forward position that reflects the collective interests of the people of Western.
This way forward will be jointly handed by the working committee and political leaders to the custodians of PNGSDP.
In addition, the way forward should be complemented by an effort to overhaul the public service delivery mechanism, provincial and district business arms and other important community development organisations in the province. While demanding for greater recognition and participation, the people of Western must also show that they have the capacity to transparently manage the benefits emanating from the development of their resources.
The absence of robust local institutional establishments will continue to cause Western’s revenues and assets to be controlled and managed under custodial or third-party arrangements where the funds and assets will not be effectively used to develop Western.
Hence, it is important for the people of Western province to learn from other provinces who are effectively managing their revenues accruing from the development of their resources such as New Ireland, Enga and East New Britain.

Eugene Kambut
Port Moresby