Villagers question Kimas’ role in lease

Normal, Papua


THE Western province chamber of commerce and industry alleged that Lands secretary Pepi Kimas may have been negligent when he issued leases more than 1.25 million hectares of customary land in the North Fly district  on Sept 23.
A landowners’ meeting, the subject of an AAP report published in The National last Friday, was told that there was prima facie evidence that Kimas and/or his responsible officers had acted “at best negligently and possibly corruptly” when he issued the three leases.
The chamber’s acting president Warren Dutton said: “Firstly, the lease over the 632,538 ha in the Nomad district was issued by the secretary in the name of Tosigiba Investment Ltd.”
“The chairman of the Tosigiba Timber Group Ltd, which was incorporated 1996, and which has 79 of its 82 issued shares held by integrated land groups (ILGs) which represent the customary landowners, told the meeting that he had no knowledge of or connection with Tosigiba Investment Ltd, in whose name the lease over his people’s land had been issued.
“Secondly, the chairman and others from the Nomad area told the meeting that they had negotiated with the proposed developer to give them (timber) rights over a corridor 5km either side of the road alignment, which the developer agreed to construct in consideration for those rights.”
Dutton said the area over which they had agreed to give these rights would be approximately 100,000ha, however, Kimas had issued a special agricultural and business lease for 99 years over all the land owned by all of the members of all the 79 ILGs.
He said this included all of the land of all the other villages living in the Nomad district who were not party to the negotiations for the road alignment.
“Not one village house, nor one sago tree is excluded from this lease,” Dutton said.
“The lease is also issued over the top of long-existing leases for mission purposes.
“How can the secretary of Lands be so credulous as to believe that any Papua New Guinean villager would or could be prepared to cede absolutely all of his land to the state for 99 years?
“Surely he, or his responsible officers, should have referred back to the Kiunga and Nomad district lands officers for confirmation that all the villagers really did agree to give away absolutely all of their land.
“By not doing so, surely he has acted, at least, negligently in the performance of his statutory duties.”