The National, Friday 26th April 2013
By SHIRLYN BELDEN
FINANCE Minister James Marape has slammed the manner in which Hela Governor Anderson Agiru has gone about petitioning the government and ExxonMobil with a threat to close down the liquefied natural gas project.
According to Marape the approach by the Hela MP was inappropriate as there were significant benefits which the national government has delivered to Hela and Southern Highlands under the umbrella benefit sharing agreement (UBSA) signed in 2009.
On Tuesday, the media reported that Agiru, on behalf of landowners, gave a 30-day ultimatum to the government and LNG developer ExxonMobil to honour certain conditions contained in various agreements and ministerial commitments or face a legal challenge to halt work on the LNG.
Marape, who is also the Education Minister and Member for Tari-Pori in Hela, said Agiru should have consulted him or the Prime Minister on his and the landowners’ grievances instead of making sudden outbursts through the media.
“From what I know under the UBSA millions of kina were remitted from the national government to SHP and Hela, whether through government or landowner associations and companies, all in the name of honouring the national government commitments.
“The PM and I are from those two provinces which Agiru has an easy access to discuss or talk if he feels he or our provinces are deprived. We are bound by what was signed in Kokopo.”
While I do not dispute the outstanding issues like social mapping and landowner identification, I deplore the manner in which the learned Governor chose to use surprisingly and emotionally charge his petition through the media,” he said yesterday at a press conference in Port Moresby.
Marape said K25 million for high impact projects was released to Hela late last year while there is K65 million held in trust account awaiting Agiru’s disbursement list.
He said the government had honoured the infrastructure development grant payments to Hela provincial government, Hela Transitional Authority and the landowners.
Marape also announced that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill would be addressing the matter next week in detail where he would put forward all payments and remittence made from the national government to the provinces and landowners.
He has invited Agiru for close consultation with him and the prime minister to maintain close confidence and assured SHP and Hela provinces that the government is committed to the agreements.