LAST week, the Waigani heavies, including the SHP governor and his nine MPs were in the Hela region for the licence-based development forum (the development forum).
Most of them are expected to be there in the next few weeks until due completion of the development forum in each licenced area.
The development forum is critical for the realisation of the LNG project because without its due completion, the developers would not be able to make the final investment decision, which is tentatively set for Dec 8.
The State is under mandatory obligation to deliver the project on time and without delays “using its best endeavours”.
If what happened at the BSA forum in Kokopo is something to go by, it would be interesting to see how the State negotiates royalties, equities, development levies and other benefits with landowners in each licenced area, Hela Interim Authority, if any, and Southern Highlands provincial government (SHPG).
I believe SHP Governor Anderson Agiru will not take anything for granted when it comes to making decisions that would otherwise determine the future of his people in the new Hela and SHP provinces.
It will also be difficult for him and landowners to negotiate benefits without proper cost/benefit analysis being conducted by the National Fiscal and Economic Commission prior to signing the Gas Agreement in May last year.
It will also be difficult for mandated leaders like Mr Agiru to represent the interests of his people when a few people with vested interests are behaving childishly by inciting violence and disrespect for the rule of law in Hela.
Those who tried to incite violence against our elected leaders with the view to sabotage the development forum process should bury their heads in shame.
There are formal processes to address any grievances one may have.
Political point scoring and time for finger-pointing is over.
Now is an opportune time for Helas to show maturity, leadership and protect the interest of Hela and the nation.
Given the landowners’ tendency to “squander” millions of kina in MoA funds over the years, how much benefits are enough for them?
Have they not learnt a lesson or two from their own past experiences?
How are the landowners going to manage more funds if they have not been able to manage what has been paid to them to date?
In reality, millions of kina paid to landowners had been squandered and there is little or nothing to show that these funds had been used to improve their own lives and those of their communities.
There is no guarantee that new benefits to be derived from the project will be used in good faith and for the benefit of the landowners and their communities.