Judge urges ‘common sense’ over LNG issues

National, Normal


DEPUTY Chief Justice Gibbs Salika has urged for “common sense” to prevail by the State, Department of Petroleum and Energy and landowners in dealing with sensitive issues that may affect the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.
Justice Salika also cautioned that Department of Petroleum (DPE) and Energy not to get Papa, Lealea and Boera landowners over-excited into signing the Licence-Based Benefits Sharing Agreement (LBBSA) as issues in Southern Highlands must be put to rest first.
“The Department of Petroleum and Energy must not get these people over-excited which may lead to false assumptions and expectations,” Justice Salika said.
He called on all parties including the State, DPE, Southern Highlands, Gulf and Central landowners, who have dispute to return to court next Monday to find a way forward including Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for the benefit of all parties affected by the LNG project.
He made the remarks after Digibu landowners from Kutubu went before the Waigani National Court seeking restraining orders to block the current licence-based forums from going ahead.
Mark Nasil of Nasil Lawyers, acting for Digimu Landowners Association, argued that social mapping and landowner identification provided for under the Oil and Gas Act had not been complied with by the State and DPE.
He said the LBBSA should be restrained because section 48 of the Oil and Gas Act was very specific and a prerequisite to the LBBSA.
Justice Salika intervened saying that “for any development forum must start from Southern Highlands and down to Gulf and Central province landowners because the gas and pipeline will start from up there and come down here”.
Lawyer for DPE Greg Manda submitted that he did not receive any instructions from the department that the Development Forum for Papua be restrained.
Justice Salika made a ruling that all matters and parties involved in the LBBSA or the LNG project should come before the court next Monday.
“We will see what happens on Monday, and if all parties agree, we can resolve through ADR means.”
Justice Salika then cautioned Mr Manda not to get the people of Papa, Boera, Lealea and Porebada over-excited with the current LBBSA underway at Murray Barracks.
“Common sense should prevail, don’t get these people excited,” he Salika.
Justice Salika said whatever was happening in Port Moresby was putting unnecessary pressure on landowner groups in Southern Highlands as they felt they were being left out while LBBSA was conducted here.
“The State must treat landowner issues with proper respect and understanding.”
Justice Salika said this type of attitude by the State had contributed to Papua New Guinea’s rating by the World Bank as a difficult country to invest in.