Prime land in dispute

Main Stories, National

The National, Tuesday 4th September, 2012

THE National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and Paga 36 Ltd, a subsidiary of Fincorp Finance, were at the Waigani National Court again yesterday, arguing over ownership of 36 hectares of a prime piece of land in Waigani, Port Moresby.
The land, described as portion 2127 and later subdivided into portions 2536 and 2537, is where the NBC radio transmitters are located.
Paga 36 applied in court that NBC was illegally occupying the land and wanted NBC vacated so development could take place.
The NBC maintained that the land lease, as claimed by Paga 36, was obtained “under suspicious circumstances” and that NBC was never consulted on the matter.
Managing director of Fincorp Finance Anthony Witham was cross examined the whole day yesterday.
Witham said Fincorp Finance bought Paga 36 in 1998, a company that had no businesses operating except a lease on portion 2127 as Fincorp had keen interest in the land.
He said the current directors for Paga 36 included Attorney-General Kerenga Kua, former managing director for bemobile Noel Mobiha, Martin Kenehe and David Quinn although changes to directorship were being made.
Witham told the court that Paga 36 had a lease from 1995 to 2000 and it wanted to renew the lease to develop the area to be called Waigani City Centre.
Between 2000 and 2008 there were controversial circumstances about the land, which included a letter by the chief physical planner, then John Ofoi, to revoke the lease and re-tender it because Paga had not shown its cause to develop the area.
Sir Puka Temu, then lands and physical planning minister, approved a new lease for Paga.
NBC was challenging this, asking if approved procedures were followed to acquire the land.
Paga’s ambitious development plans drawn in 2008 was to build the prime minister’s office, a constitutional house that looked towards parliament, town houses with swimming pools behind the Telikom residence, a five-storey office complex and an entertainment and shopping centre.
“The land board said we only need to spend K3 million (on early works) and we’d get a 99-year lease,” Witham said.
He said he organised surveyors but they were chased away.
“I did numerous letters and phone calls to the NBC but nothing ever came out,” he said.
Witham maintained that Paga 36 had lease over the land and the NBC was a “squatter” there.
More witnesses are expected to be called today.