The National, Monday February 3rd, 2014
By MALUM NALU
WESTERN Governor Ati Wobiro has assembled a legal team to challenge interim legal orders obtained by lawyers Samson Jubi and Allen Baniyamai
Wobiro said the Ok Tedi Development Foundation, Ok Tedi Mining Ltd and the State, through Chief Secretary Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc, were putting together legal teams to challenge the interim orders.
The National Court on Friday ordered OTML to refrain from dumping mine waste and tailings in the Ok Tedi/Fly River systems pending the hearing of the substantive matter on Feb 12, among others.
Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika ordered the government to provide details and records of how it spent the dividends it received from OTML from 2001 to 2013.
Wobiro said on Friday he had put together a team of lawyers after a meeting with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. “The position of my government is simple and clear,” he said.
“I will fully defend this matter to protect development funds belonging to my people.
“I have a superior legal team to defend this matter and Samson Jubi and Allen Bainyamai know I am talking from a position of strength and based on records against them to date.
“Pastor Steven Bagari and his co-plaintiffs have caused more harm than good to our people.
“I believe these plaintiffs have neither the support of the people nor my government.
“Together with the State team, I will engage my lawyers to defend this matter.
“I am now assuring my people to remain calm while our lawyers are studying the interim orders of the court with the view to make the relevant applications.”
Wobiro said one of the orders was that payment of funds to Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) and non-CMCA communities be frozen.
“The effect of the court decision is that the funds have now been frozen,” he said.
“In other words, the CMCAs that receive regular payments as part of the 9th Supplemental Agreement will no longer receive this money because the court has ruled that the funds are now frozen.
“Development along the river communities will now cease because the money is frozen, although you have your money in the account.”
Wobiro was disappointed two of his provincial assembly members were involved in taking the matter to court.
“The president for the Kiwai local level government council Gedi Dabu and president of Oriomo-Bituri local level government council Benjes Alusi are not the mandated people under the existing agreements,” he said.
“They have no authority to raise this matter in court.”
Wobiro said discussions and arrangements between stakeholders on new arrangements for Ok Tedi were near completion
Providing an update on Friday on the work of the Eminent Persons Group of Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Puka Temu and Bart Philemon, Wobiro said: “I am confident that the Eminent Persons Group will gather views of the four main parties, namely the State, PNGSDP, Fly River provincial government and the Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) leaders, including BHP Billiton to a certain extent, to reach an outcome that is favourable to all.
“I have every confidence in the Emminent Persons Group for a just outcome, an outcome my people have been deprived of since 2001.
“The heads of agreement will be signed, agreeing on high level principles and then we’ll go down to discussing how it’s all going to be managed at the provincial level.”
Wobiro said he had always supported the position taken by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill that PNGSDP had “lost sight” of the purpose for which it was established in 2001 and instead “became alienated” from development needs and social expectations of the people of Western.
“I could not simply stand by and watch while my people suffered in vain, hence, my unwavering support for the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in pushing for the enactment of the Ok Tedi 10th Supplemental Agreement Act 2013,” he said.
“In fact, it was the right thing to do for the sake of my people, and history will judge my conscience.”