WHEN Komo-Margarima MP Francis Potape was given the added ministerial responsibility as minister assisting the PM on LNG matters, landowners applauded the prime minister.
The LNG project is undoubtedly the single biggest project in this country and reported as the largest hydro-carbon development in the southern hemisphere.
Hence, it is fitting to have it to under the close watch and scrutiny of the prime minister.
However, certain landowners disagree with the appointment of Potape.
They believe that as a local, and being a politician, will put him in a conflict of interest situation as well political preferences will come to play.
This may lead to landowner revolt and dissatisfactions.
The landowners are divided on the issue of Potape’s involvement in LNG matters.
So while a majority of landowners welcomed his appointment, another faction did not.
In all fairness, both viewpoints hold water depending on which group you are with.
If I were a genuine and a project impact landowner, I would want the truth on landownership status and I would prefer a person with local knowledge to be involved.
However, if I am a non-landowner and if I want to get a cut of the benefits, obviously, I would go for an outsider to capitalise on his lack of local knowledge on landownership status, such as William Duma.
In the final analysis, however, the overarching interest of the state, the government has to look after the interest of the landowners because they are the ones impacted by the project.
Of course, there is the Melanesian culture of giving, which has thus far continued to benefit everyone irrespective of landowner status.
There ought to be a control though as the government cannot continue to allow fly-by-night wheelers and dealers non-landowners to hijack the system and rob genuine landowners.
Finally, we call on Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru and Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to keep a close watch on the “newly-made gardens” as the wolves and the flying foxes (talagamia) are beginning to emerge from the fringes to rob and steal from the gardens.