National Court orders Abal and O'Neill to look into 1996 deal
By JACOB POK
ACTING Prime Minister Sam Abal and Minister for Finance Peter O'Neill have been ordered to personally take steps to review a 1996 memorandum of agreement signed between the state and Kutubu landowners of PDL2, The National reports.
The National Court yesterday said failure to do so could result in contempt charges against the state.
The state was given until June 17 to review the expired agreement.
Justice Ambeng Kandakasi then issued interim restraining orders stopping Mineral Resource Development Company (MRDC) from facilitating payments of MoA funds to Kutubu landowners.
The orders followed an application by the plaintiffs, including former Southern Highlands governor Hami Yawari and landowners of PDL 2.
The issue arose from a newspaper statement by Abal that all MoA payments would be facilitated by MRDC.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs opposed that and told the court that the 1996 MoA did not allow for MRDC to make payments of funds to the landowners of PDL2.
They said the payments were to be made directly by the state to landowner groups and companies.
The state lawyer told the court he had not received any instructions on the matter, but argued there was no evidence on the part of the plaintiffs to verify that MRDC would facilitate payment as who would facilitate payment was still undecided.
Kandakasi told the state lawyer there was a media article by Abal saying that payment would be made by MRDC.
He asked why the MoA of 1996 still had not been reviewed.
Kandakasi referred to earlier proceedings where state lawyers failed to turn up in court with state officials when instructed to do so.
"The defendants have shown no interest in the matter.
"It is time people are dealt with for contempt."
He said the state had provided MoA funds to MRDC without discussing the issue with landowners.
"These are all wrong and contemptuous," Kandakasi said.
He ordered Abal take personal steps to have the memorandum of agreement reviewed no later than June 17.
He said this was to maintain the status quo and failure to do so could result in contempt.