Fraudulent claims of landownership on the rise, says judge

National, Normal

A NATIONAL Court judge says it is now common for individuals to file claims as landowners belonging to certain clans, tribes and villages.
“It is becoming common in PNG, following the discovery of mineral resources,”Justice Catherine Davani said last Thursday when dismissing an application by clan members from Boera, Rearea and Porebada villages.
They had filed proceedings to stop monies being paid to other villagers through their landowner companies, as per the PNG LNG benefit sharing agreement (BSA) between the State and the villagers.
Justice Davani ruled that there were defects in the originating submissions before the court by the individuals trying to stop a payout to four landowner companies.
Justice Davani dismissed the proceedings on grounds of frivolity and also set aside the interim ex parte orders the plaintiffs obtained on  Nov 3.
The respondents filed their notice of motion on Dec 7 and amended it and filed it on Feb 5.
Lawyer for the plaintiffs, Alan Baniyamai, submitted the proceedings could be converted to pleadings.
“The serious issues of fraud must be pleaded and particularised.
“All these can be properly resolved by the filing of a writ of summons and statement of claim,” Justice Davani said.
She then issued two formal orders that the  claims be dismissed, including any interim orders, and that the plaintiffs shall pay all named defendants’ costs, on a party to party basis.
The matter arose due to a claim related to the BSA between the developers, the State and the villagers of Porebada, Papa, Rearea (Lealea), and Boera in the Hiri district of the Central province.
The multi-billion-kina PNG LNG project involves these villages.
The court, in its decision, pointed out that the LNG would be piped from Southern Highlands to the Gulf province, then to the Central province processing plant.
The processing plant would be located on State land portion 152.
The surrounding customary lands would be affected by this development.
The State lands were once owned by villagers from the above named villages.
In the umbrella agreement signed between the developers, the State and the affected villagers in Kokopo,the Government agreed to make available K120 million to all landowner companies  for the LNG project.
From that amount, K17,572,000 was allocated to the affected project area landowners of Boera, Porebada, Rearea and Papa as seed capital to establish spin-off businesses.
Each of the four affected villages land group received 25% of the allocation, pursuant to the agreement of which the Petroleum Minister paid a total of K3.4 million to the four landowners companies: Papa Resources Development Ltd, Boera Holdings Lt, Porebada Lanco and Buria Rearea Caution Bay Ltd.