Thursday, July 02, 2009

Prime Minister shocked at reclassification of Unagi Park

By MADELEINE AREK in The National, Papua New Guinea’s leading daily newspaper


A previous member of the Lands Board may have conducted himself improperly in the sale of the land known as Unagi Park, now the subject of controversy and potential legal action.

The reclassification of the Unagi Park (allotment 4 to 16 section 122 Hohola) from reserve/recreational to commercial had shocked Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare when it first surfaced.

In November 2005, and again in June 2007, the Prime Minister wrote to Lands Minister Sir Puka Temu to investigate this land deal.

Sir Michael said if the land was indeed granted initially to the National Capital District Commission for recreational purpose, then the reclassification (to commercial) should be reversed.

It is unclear if any investigation requested by the Prime Minister was carried out.

Sir Puka refused to comment when contacted by phone yesterday.

He said he would make a detailed public statement today.

The Prime Minister’s Media Unit also declined comment, referring The National to the Lands Department.

Two companies, Virgo No. 65 Limited and Fairhaven Limited, are claiming ownership of the land and have asked NCDC to remove all playground equipment from the park.

The NCDC is opposing this, insisting the land is reserved as a park and is preparing to go to court.

Company documents obtained by The National show that former Lands Board chairman John Tangila was a shareholder of Virgo No. 65 Pty Ltd, a company incorporated on Jan 19, 1998.

The documents show a number of other people, believed to be family members of Tangila, as shareholders.

They all have a Mt Hagen address.

The company was later sold to three naturalised citizens, who now want to have the Unagi Park developed for commercial purpose.

A number of church, women and youth groups, opposed to this land being developed for commercial purpose, approached the Prime Minister to intervene.

In November 2005, the Prime Minister instructed Sir Puka to provide him with an intense brief into how the reclassification of Unagi Park was made.

In the second letter, written in June 2007, Sir Michael expressed “surprise and shock” that his orders in 2005 for an investigation into how the land was reclassified were not adhered to.

Sir Michael had expressed concern that the land was not lawfully obtained by individuals and organisations stating claim to it, and had advised the minister to immediately investigate how it was reclassified.

The brief was to include whether the mentioned parcels of land (allotments 4 to 16, section 122, Hohola, Gordon) were first granted to the NCDC as special purpose; why the lease granted to NCDC was cancelled and the area rezoned to commercial; if there had been any new grants done to other persons or organisations and, if there had, then to whom were the respective parcels granted to and when.

The report was to be made available to Sir Michael “as soon as possible”, as he strongly believed that “if all investigations reveal that these parcels of land were firstly granted to NCDC to be used for recreational purposes, then all or any other grants should be cancelled”.

On June 29, 2007, in another letter to Sir Puka, Sir Michael expressed frustration that despite his Government’s election promise to investigate all unscrupulous land deals in the country as a matter of priority, the Unagi Park deal had been allowed to go through.


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