By MALUM NALU
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday hit back at PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) chairman, Sir Mekere Morauta, disparaging him as a stooge for BHP Billiton.
Responding to yesterday’s The National front page story, in which Sir Mekere accused the government of trying to “steal” the assets of the people of Western province through Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) and PNGSDP, O’Neill said it was the former Prime Minister who was doing the stealing and lying.
|Sir Mekere and O'Neill in happier days|
“The central claim that we are trying to expropriate Ok Tedi Mining is simply false and very, very misleading,” O’Neill told reporters at his parliament office.
“This is coming from a person who held the position of prime minister, and it is of concern that a person of his nature can make deliberately misleading statements, to justify his own interests and his own issues.
“One of these is that we are trying to virtually ‘steal’ the assets of OTML and PNGSDP.
“The people of PNG already own these assets, so how can you steal from yourself?
“People of Western province and PNG own the resources, own the mine, own the shares that were gifted by BHP, so how can you accuse people of stealing their own property?
“Sir Mekere is very much incapable of divorcing his vested interests, and personal interests in this matter.
“His claim we consider to be self-serving, and again as I said, a very deliberate attempt to mislead our people as he did in 2002 when he was prime minister.
“He misled our people, he gave immunity to BHP from prosecution for the huge environmental damage that was done as a result of the operations of the mine to the Fly River system in Western province.
“Of course, we all know that he has been rewarded with a very plum job of being chairman of the PNGSDP, which in turns makes him acquire another job as chairman of OTML.
“He does not represent the people of PNG, he does not represent the people of Western province…in any shape whatsoever.
“His interests are very clear.
“He represents foreign interests, he represents BHP.
“I ask who is lying to the people of Western province, who is lying to the people of PNG, whose interests is he protecting?
“These are the questions he needs to answer.
O’Neill said it was time for the PNG government and the people of Western to take over the operations of the mine as PNGSDP had failed to do its job.
“This is why we are now saying that after 10 years of continued mismanagement, continued disinvestments, that PNG government and the Western provincial government play a direct role in management,” he said.
“We know for a fact that there are mixed successes, but there are a lot of failures.
“It has created a bureaucracy.”