I would like to highlight some stumbling blocks with regard to “land ownership issue” in the development of LNG project.
Land in the Highlands society and Papua New Guinea, for that matter, is held in high esteem because it gives us our identity and, above all, provides our everyday needs.
The Government, before embarking on major deal with potential investors and developers, should have carried out awareness with landowners to assure them of the benefits.
There should be a special committee established to get collective views of the resource owners.
For the Government to take the land away in the name of development may be welcomed by the handful of educated people in the project area who see this as a perfect opportunity to get rich at the expense of the silent majority who are either semi-educated or illiterate.
However, when it comes to the real issues of who gets what, the dialogue with a villager may not be a walk in the park as the Government assumes.
From past experiences with oil companies, royalties, equities, etc, only a few individuals have benefited.
The sad part is they squander all the money while those back in the villages get nothing and their standard of living today is no better than their forefathers although they are said to be rich.
The provincial government has failed to act because it, too, is just as guilty by grossly misusing tax revenue.
Thus far, there has been no public inquiry into such wanton abuse.
Now that the people of Hela will get a province of their own, is this how the Government is saying thank you to Southern Highlands?
For the Government, project developers and landowners to strike a deal, the LBBSA should have come in after a proper social mapping to identify legitimate landowners.
I am not an expert but as a citizen, I find that we have not set our priorities right and squander millions just to lure support, not on merit, but purely to speed up the whole process.
If we fail to do things properly and in a transparent manner, ExxonMobil may pull out and leave us with a huge debt.
This is a real prospect and it is a frightening one.