Hides leader queries K13m cheques for roads

National, Normal

The National , Tuesday, May 31, 2011

LANDOWNERS from the Hides PDL1 area in Southern Highlands yesterday warned that they will carry out their threats of shutting down the LNG project if the national government continues with its delay tactics while channelling landowner funds elsewhere.
Hides PDL1 landowner and chairman of Hides Gas Resources Ltd Willie Wandaja made their stance known in response to a Radio Australia interview with Esso Highlands managing director Peter Graham.
Wandaja also raised concern that K13 million meant for the umbrella benefits sharing agreement (UBSA) and infrastructure development grants (IDG) had been recently diverted to projects outside of the impact project areas.
According to an acknowledgement letter from Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru to Treasury and Finance Minister Peter O’Neill, dated May 24, 2011, five cheques were released – four for road projects and one for K2 million for the Hela Technical College – all not inside the impact project area.
According to Agiru’s letter, one of the cheques (for the Wiru loop road in Pangia costing K4 million) had been withheld by Finance secretary Gabriel Yer.
The others, acknowledged as being received, included the Maria to Pori road for K2 million; Bush Korenz road for K2 million; and the Hela Benalia road for K3 million.
Wandaja described the payments as “very suspicious, especially at a time when the process of paying out all UBSA, licenced-based benefits sharing agreement, IDGs and MoAs are still being worked out now with the involvement of MRDC”.
“Our two leaders need to explain what is going on,” he said.
“Besides, the projects with which the funds had been released were way outside the impact project area.”
Reiterating on the Radio Australia report by Graham, Wandaja said tensions were still high following the death of Tuguba paramount chief Himuni Homogo.
Graham had told the radio station: “Landowners are saying immediate action is needed or the consequences will be serious.”
Wandaja said the national government had committed itself and the landowners to the LNG project and it must come good on its promises.
“We signed all the agreements and MoA in good faith and it is now up to the national government to stand by those agreements.
“We want to see the project succeed but side deals like these will jeopardise everything; we want our entitlements from the government,” he said.