Friday, April 13, 2012

Abel: PMIZ landowners must be respected

Commerce and Industry Minister Charles Abel has told stakeholders in no uncertain terms that landowners of theUS$95 million (K216 million) Pacific Marine Industrial Zone project in Vidar, Madang, must be respected.
Commerce and Industry Minister Charles Abel…landowners must be respected
Abel’s strong message came during presentation of PMIZ’s engineering concept design by Korean engineering consultants Deco to the PNG government, and the payment of K10 million PNG government counterpart funding to project consultants China Shenyang International Economics & Technical Cooperation Corporation (CSYIC), on Wednesday.
The PMIZ project has been the subject much controversy since it was first mooted, with landowner issues high on the agenda.
“The issue is for landowners to be engaged meaningfully in the project,” he said.
“We must try to engage them as much as we can.
“There must be a socio-economic package for local landowners.
“We must address their concerns.”
Abel said the government gave K1 million to project landowners last October to prepare them to participate in the development and construction phase of the PMIZ.
Even former Environment Minister Benny Allan, who was present on Wednesday, admitted that he had a very hard time with PMIZ landowners.
“We went through ‘rough seas’ when confronted by landowners,” he said.
Last May, landowner issues came to a head when government ministers were branded "conmen and thieves" at a public rally organised by then Justice Minister and Madang Regional MP Sir Arnold Amet.
The rally, at Alexishafen, saw angry landowners and villagers expressing their frustration over outstanding land issues and refusing to let the PMIZ project go ahead until all issues were resolved.
All and then Commerce and Industry Minister, Gabriel Kapris, were present while then Fisheries Minister Ben Semri was absent.
Issues highlighted then included organising of incorporated land groups and infighting among executives and clan members of the two umbrella companies, Kananam Investment Ltd and Rehammb Holdings; absence of a working memorandum of understanding and agreement; exclusion of any legislation protecting people's interest regarding long-term effects to their environment, health or land; government's failure to conduct awareness exercises in discussing boundary issues concerning underwater leases already marked and taken over by the project; and equity for the people and provincial government.
Francis Gem, an NGO representative and landowner, incited a scuffle on stage and started the name-calling.
He pointed at the ministers' faces, and said: "Yupela olgeta konman (you are all conmen)".
This was after Gem asked the crowd if they wanted the PMIZ project to continue and the crowd shouted "nogat (no)".
His outburst did not settle down well with Allan, who stood up to confront Gem, which brought police on stage to calm things down.

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