Resource ownership causes problems


ACCORDING to media reports recently, villagers alleged to be from Wafi-Golpu area shut down work on the proposed project site – this time for an indefinite period.
This, in addition to Morobe government’s reluctance to recognise the recently signed MoU, adds further delay and uncertainty to this multi-billion kina impact project.
The key issues that stand out in this drama since the signing of the MoU by the prime minister and developer are, once again: ownership and benefit-sharing.
Delays in recent past projects all over PNG have been over the same issues. Ambiguity and lack of clarity in defining natural resource ownership under legislation has, and will, continue to create divided views on impact projects of this magnitude.
These potentially open the door to the destructive force of corruption as attempts by various groups of people to grapple power/attention in order to capture the potential wealth such projects generate.
It is imperative that the State, the province and Yanta-Hengambu-Babuaf people now remove all emotional outbursts and political manipulation from the negotiation process to ensure progress and sustainability of this all-important project – for the benefit of all.
Only the voice of those whose land and future will forever be changed by this large-scale project must be given priority now.
Moving forward, could our esteemed legal people look at supplemental additions to the Constitution to create provisions for key stakeholders (considering that national wealth now is not equitably distributed)?
This is so that we mitigate future risks which may undermine our people’s development aspirations and the country’s future as an attractive investment destination.
After all, a lot of resources and hard work have gone into promoting this theme in the recently-concluded Apec summit.
The issue of natural resource ownership, and benefit-sharing that comes along with it, will remain an impediment to development aspirations of our country.
This is until such time when State puts appropriate legislation to define management, ownership and what constitutes equitable benefit-sharing among all key stakeholders.
We do not need to look far to see the confronting reminders of the dangers of the State’s inaction on these issues.

MK Kawa
Concerned Ples Man