Judge slams DPE head for ignoring court order

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NATIONAL Court judge Justice Ambeng Kandakasi yesterday described bureaucrats as too complacent in addressing issues of national importance.
Justice Kandakasi said this before issuing an order for Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE) secretary Rendle Rimua to meet with Kutubu landowner leaders and sort out issues relating to outstanding funds.
This must happen prior to them appearing again before Justice Kandakasi tomorrow, when he will peruse the outcome of the meeting and determine the next course.
The order is for Mr Rimua, or a designate with equal powers, and technical staff to meet with landowners today, and sort out memorandum of agreement (MoA) and special support grants (SSG) funds promised by the Government, and come to a binding agreement.
“Communicate with Rimua and meet with the landowners today (yesterday) or tomorrow (today),” Justice Kandakasi urged DPE lawyers.
“This is a serious issue, but it seems department heads see fit to do other things …. what is PNG becoming?
“The lack of commitment and seriousness is a mockery to PNG,” the judge said.
Justice Kandakasi said such disinterest was unhealthy for the progress of vital projects such as the PNG LNG project and would hinder meaningful change.
“I should just grant an the order for the LBBSA (licence-based benefits sharing agreement) forums to be halted and let’s see what happens,” Justice Kandakasi added, moments before issuing the order.
On Oct 16, Justice Kandakasi had ordered that the landowners, DPE, the developer and their lawyers meet in conference to discuss and identify amounts already disbursed and amounts outstanding.
In court yesterday, Justice Kandakasi was advised by landowner leader Hami Yawari’s lawyer, Ignatius Mambei of Henao Lawyers, that this instruction did not transpire as Mr Rimua did not turn up in person.
Justice Kandakasi then stressed that these matters must be sorted out through all available alternatives.
Restraining the LBBSA forums is an option that Justice Kandakasi said was not in the best interest of the PNG LNG project because of timeframes that need to be strictly met by the developer and its partners.
“The discussion must look at alternatives and it must be a mediation to move forward,” he added.
Justice Kandakasi then made a point that the Government must ensure that there were proper appropriations before commitments were made.
The judge also noted that the landowners were not united and urged that they must meet, at designated avenues, such as the LBBSA, and discuss ownership issues properly to ensure that the project benefits would be shared equally among all genuine landowners.