The National, Monday 12th December 2011
LOCAL level government councillors in Komo, host of the multi-billion-kina liquefied natural gas project in Southern Highlands, want the national government to settle their infrastructure development grants and integrated benefits packages before the close of accounts next week.
They said in a media statement yesterday the past and current government had lied to the people, including landowners in Gulf and Central provinces.
Speaking during a meeting with landowner leaders, government officials and councillors in Port Moresby yesterday, Komo LLG president Thomas Potape said since the signing of the umbrella benefits sharing agreement in 2009 in Kokopo, East New Britain, followed by the licenced-based benefits sharing agreement at the project sites, payments to the landowners from the various commitments and agreements had been very slow.
“At the Kokopo UBSA signing, it was agreed that K1.2 billion will be paid in IDG over 10 years.
“Effectively, this is K600 million for the first five years and the rest thereafter. The payments were to start from 2009,” Potape said.
“However, my people and those from Gulf and Central have waited for three years now, and still no payments.”
He said their inquiries with government officials had always resulted in responses, “come back next week”, and the local leaders and their people were fed up.
“All government accounts will close next week and, with parliament likely to rise, nobody will be around to attend to landowners’ IBPs and IDGs as our politicians head back home to prepare for the 2012 general election in about five months.
“If that happens, I will have no choice but to force the project to close and wait for the new government to come in and sort out the landowners,” Potape said.
In the event that a closure is effected, there will be no LNG activity in the Komo area for nine months.
His actions could spark off similar reactions elsewhere in Gulf and Central.
Government officials yesterday attributed the delay in payments to the different list of claimants senior government ministers had allegedly produced.
“Each minister has a different list of landowner groups and, basically, that is where the hold-up is,” one senior government official said.