Govt orders probe into landowners’ dispute

National, Normal

The National, Thursday 9th May 2013


THE government has ordered an investigation into the dispute by landowners which led to the closure of the Lae wharf on Tuesday.

Public Enterprises and State Investments Minister Ben Micah announced this during a media conference in Port Moresby yesterday.

He said the investigation would be carried out by a “transparent and independent party” and stakeholders would provide credible evidence on allegations raised by the landowners and the PNG Maritime Workers Union. 

Micah said a government team led by Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) managing director Wasantha Kumarasiri met with the disgruntled parties yesterday during which they agreed to resume operations at the Lae wharf. 

The landowners told Micah that they first raised their concerns with the government last December but nothing was done. The impasse finally resulted in the closure of the wharf on Tuesday and a 48-hour ultimatum for the government to meet their demands. 

“I thank the Ahi and Labu landowner groups, members of the stevedoring companies and village leaders for the understanding and cooperation extended to the IPBC and PNG Ports by reopening the Lae wharf today,” Micah said.

“As conveyed to the landowners, the matters of grievance by the landowner groups and the stevedoring companies owned by the landowners are noted and will be addressed to mutual satisfaction.

“With the investigation those accused will be given natural justice to defend themselves.” 

The minister said the expression of interest sought by PNG Ports Corporation Ltd (PNGPCL) in relation to Lae Stevedoring Operations was suspended immediately and that the IPBC had taken over the modernisation programme and would work with PNGPCL and the stevedoring companies to ensure greater consultation and participation. 

Meanwhile, the closure of the country’s premier port is believed to have cost millions of kina in lost business operations. 

Kumarasiri confirmed that five large vessels of cargo ready for unloading were affected during the protest when business was slowed down. 

Micah also appealed to the landowners to be patient with the government on the finalisation of the policy framework that would provide better equity participation for them. 

He assured the landowners that the government would work closely with them to address issues of concern about the Lae Port development.