K70mil demand for refinery land

Main Stories, National

The National – Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LANDOWNERS from Napanapa in NCD yesterday blocked off access leading to the InterOil oil refinery outside Port Moresby in protest over the non-payment of a promised K70 million payment of a total K286 million land compensation.
The villagers also demanded that they sign a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the company.
The more than 50 people, including women and children, claimed they were forcefully removed by police with warnings against a repeat blockade.
Acting NCD metropolitan commander Supt Jim Namora last night said he was not aware of the forced removal of the villagers.
It was understood that some of the protesters, especially men, were arrested but later released following requests by InterOil.
The resource developer could not be reached to confirm these incidents.
A visit by The National to the site late yesterday afternoon found some of the villagers and their families still camped near the blockade. They had chopped down a tree and placed it in the middle of the road. They said the blockade had resulted from the government’s failure to pay them the K70 million approved by the prime minister on Nov 4 last year.
According to a letter sighted by The National, the prime minister had written to Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and Finance Peter O’Neill on Nov 4 last year to settle the K70 million owed to the landowners.
This did not happen and the landowners issued a seven-day notice which lapsed last Friday. They then resorted to blocking off the road, denying traffic access to and from the refinery plant.
Landowner spokesman Moale Haira claimed that the landowners had not seen any benefits in the 12 years that InterOil had been in operation.
He said a provincial lands court had granted them ownership of the refinery land and they should be paid accordingly.
Work at the project site was progressing normally yesterday.