Is Paga Hill developer Fridriksson being given a hard time?
Kristian Lasslett | International State Crime Initiative
Some people feel the international media is treating Gummi Fridriksson unfairly over his involvement in the Paga Hill forced evictions in Port Moresby and various other alleged corruption scandals in PNG. For example, see Bonip Panuta’s response to Natasha Robinson’s article in The Australian.
Well let’s have a look at the hard evidence.
Fridriksson’s companies have been censured in two Auditor General reports and four Public Account Committee reports.
Concerned Papua New Guineans should read about Mr Fridriksson’s company CCS Anvil.
PNG’s Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee, allege that when improperly contracted by the Public Curator’s Office (the PCO administers deceased estates) “Anvil …withheld a significant amount of monies it has received from the proceeds of the realisation of assets of deceased estates, including sale of properties, shares and investment and rent…The AGO can find no evidence that any money realised by Anvil on behalf of estates has been paid into the Estate Trust Account”.
You can read their findings here: http://statecrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Appendix-G.pdf
Of course, many people in Papua New Guinea also remember another one of Mr Fridriksson’s ventures, the Destination PNG book. Sean Dorney provided some interesting coverage.
Now with respect to the other points raised by those defending Mr Fridriksson.
1. “The rights of ‘Illegal’ settlers versus the rights of legal owners”: The Public Accounts Committee suggest PHDC’s lease over Paga Hill was acquired through “corrupt dealings”. You can read about it here: http://statecrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Appendix-H.pdf . Moreover, we should also keep in mind that many of the properties demolished were on Section 26 Lots 16-20: http://statecrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Appendix-A.pdf PHDC do not own this land.
2. “Human rights abuse” versus the need to uphold the law: Police certainly should enforce the law. No one denies that. But using live ammunition on unarmed civilians, cutting young men with machetes, and punching women, this was not proportionate or warranted. Nor should they have moved in on a community when their case was before the National Court.
3. “Development and progress versus the rights of ‘illegal’ squatters” The people at Paga Hill have been there since the 1960s. They were given permission to live there by the traditional landowners, who deny having alienated the land to the state. It is a complex situation. See: http://statecrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Appendix-I.pdf . I am sorry to hear some landowners in Port Moresby have had their land damaged by gamblers and blackmarket alcohol sales (see Bonip Panuta response). Paga Hill is nothing like this. 54% of the working population are employed in the formal economy, while 45% work in the informal economy, like many Papua New Guineans.
Of course, some people seem confident that PHDC will achieve great things. Fair enough. Indeed, the developer told the public Hilton Hotels were going to help run the proposed 5-star hotel (see their 20/4/12 press release). Sadly, it is not true: http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=69568
Finally, you might ask, if all this evidence exists why is Mr Fridriksson still a member of such prestigious organisations like the PNG Institute of Directors (see his CV here)? Well, according to the PNG Institute of Directors’ Executive Officer, “we have never heard or come across anyone of that name”. You can consult their membership list here.
It is always wise to verify claims, before accepting them.
People can read the International State Crime Initiative’s report on the forced eviction here: http://statecrime.org/online_article/the-demolition-of-paga-hill-a-report-by-the-international-state-crime-initiative/