By MALUM NALU
National Planning Minister Sam Basil today (Thursday, December 22, 2011) defused what could have been a nasty situation involving Southern Highlanders in Vulupindi Haus.
A huge crowd gathered outside the building today demanding that the government pay them immediately all outstanding claims relating to the LNG project.
As Basil and his departmental secretary Dr Peter Kora emerged from a press conference relating to a completely different matter, they were surrounded by a vocal group of landowner representatives, who had been allowed into the building.
They said they had been sent to Department of National Planning by officers from Department of Finance and Treasury.
Visibly-angry Basil and the landowners then went to finance and treasury, where a senior woman official denied telling the landowners to go to national planning.
Dr Kora was shouted down by landowners when he tried to speak, however, they were persuaded to quiten down and listen to him.
He said funds were available, however, there were so many people wanting to be paid and wanting projects to be set up.
Basil bluntly told them that some of them paid kickbacks to corrupt public servants and politicians to fast track their payments – which they cheered him for.
He told them to come back next Monday and discuss the matter, and that he was a new minister, who was not aware of the landowner complexities.
Basil quickly called up Southern Highlands MP John Kekeno and told him to help solve the problem next Monday