Landowners converge on Vulupindi Haus

National, Normal

The National – Wednesday, December 15, 2010

THE Vulupindi Haus was under siege by irate LNG project landowners from the Southern Highlands yesterday, demanding that all outstanding MoA funds dating back to 2007 to be released.
The landowners converged on the building, which housed Finance and Treasury and the National Planning departments, at about 10am after being informed that these funds would be transferred to Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) while the Finance Department would only monitor the payments.
As pressure and frustrations build up outside the building, public servants closed the offices by 11am and left for the day.
G4S security guards, called in to watch over Vulupindi Haus, told The National that the three departments were closed for the day as they prevented the public from entering the building.
Police personnel, who were also called in to control and monitor the situation, said the crowd behaved well and there was no threat to the staff or the building.
Many of the aggrieved landowners wanted National Planning or Finance and Treasury to make the MoA payments, not MRDC.
Finance and Treasury Minister Peter O’Neill confirmed on Sunday that the MoA funds would not be released this week.
He said all funds would be transferred to MRDC for payment.
O’Neill said the decision for MRDC to be involved was made by the National Executive Council and he would not comment further.
The treasurer said MRDC was given the responsibility because of its experience in managing landowner funds.
However, he said landowners also had the right to express their grievances.
He also invited the landowners to write him a letter, expressing their disappointment for him to present to cabinet.
He said all genuine landowners who had been identified would be paid accordingly, at a later date, through established processes but not this week.
Government sources said there were more than 300 applications for the MoA funds, which would mean more than K800 million to settle all outstanding MoA commitments.
The national government only allocated K100 million in the supplementary budget for this purpose.
Copies of the NEC decision, approving the MoA payments, directed K235 million to be made available to settle all outstanding oil project MoA commitments.