BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
DESPITE noisy protests by pipeline landowners from the Southern Highlands province over several issues, Finance and Treasury Minister Patrick Pruaitch yesterday launched the licence-based benefits sharing agreement (LBBSA) forums for the pipeline areas.
The landowners said they were upset that the Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE) did not:
*Transport many genuine landowners to Port Moresby for the forums;
*Provide or make proper meal/accommodation arrangements; and
*Provide them allowances to attend the forums.
“Since arriving in Port Moresby, we have not been accommodated in proper areas, we have not been eating well and we have been treated like animals.
“Is this how you treat important partners in this massive gas project?” one of the landowners asked.
The landowners wanted these issues sorted out before the forums proceeded.
They also raised various other issues including land demarcation and social mapping (see separate story).
The landowners agree that the PNG LNG project is of utmost importance to the nation, but warned that if current vital issues were not sorted out now, they would fuel future disagreements.
“Any future disagreements could be detrimental towards the project, as such the Government must ensure that all issues are sorted out and cleared before proceeding,” another said.
The landowners shouted down and booed Mr Pruaitch, National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten and Commerce Minister Gabriel Kapris for over an hour.
The forum would not have been launched as landowners started getting rowdy, but Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru saved the day when he arrived and eased the tension, allowing the forum to proceed.
Mr Pruaitch urged the landowners to understand that processes were involved and the appropriate channel to raise their grievances was during the forums.
He also assured landowners that DPE officials would meet with selected leaders and sort out their immediate needs to ensure the forums get underway.