Strangers on our own land


I WRITE to comment on the headline, PM: Clans a priority (The National, Feb 11).
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was in Madang and he issued a statement warning all major mine developers operating in PNG to put locals’ interest first or else their licenses will not be renewed if they fail to address critical landowner issues.
It is good to note that our prime minister has come out on media and announced this publicly, showing his intention for the first time to put an end to this type of development arrangements between these three parties, the State, developer and the landowners.
I am satisfied with that approach, but is it intentional or another political propaganda?
He says the same rule applies to Ramu nickel mine in Madang, Ok Tedi mine in Western, Pogera in Enga and Bougainville copper mine.
Maybe he didn’t have much time so he didn’t specify an applicable rule or policy.
It is true that gold, copper, and other resources like oil, gas, timber and tuna are ours, but what prevents us from completely owning them?
Ownership rights trigger protests and destruction and lead to bloodshed.
Can Peter O’Neill find out and rectify this problem and give complete ownership?
We see us as strangers on our own land because we still use some provisions of international laws when dealing with our resources that are extracted here from our very own soil.
Some provisions of the laws still restrict us from being the legitimate resource owners.
For example, minerals extracted beneath six feet from earth surface and tuna fished outside of traditional fishing zone or boundary by law are considered as not owned by resource owners.
This features of the law should be abolished completely.
We gained independence a long time ago.
As a sovereign nation, we should have our own laws to govern and guide us in dealing with our resources.
This is our land and our sea.
Foreign companies can’t wait to hear our (landowners’) views and give ample room for negotiations because they already knew that the ownership rights are not stipulated in our constitution.
What developers embrace is the political will or support thrown behind them by our Government.
They speed processes, signing agreements to ensure they get those projects up and running.
Our very own leaders make decisions on our behalf in isolation.
By doing so, we landowners have no time to speak or have a say in such developments arrangements.
In some cases, we never view any signed agreements.
As a result, we end up as spectators, organising protests and causing damage in project areas.
If our prime minister is serious about this issue, then he must fix this on the floor of Parliament rather then quickly putting it out on media.
Our laws have forced us to become spectators.

Hanam Bill Sandu
Concerned Citizen

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