Take Action On The Manumanu Land Deal

April 25, 2018 Leave a comment

See also –‘Gross manipulation and dishonesty’ over Manumanu land deals

Source: Post Courier Editorial

The K2 million administrative inquiry into the K46 million Manumanu land deal must not be a waste of hard earned public money and time.

Already the property of Parliament, this report presented last week by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill as promised in the public interest, must now be decisively acted upon.

Its recommendations are crucial for establishing the formal terms of reference a formal Commission of Inquiry must operate under when it is set up.

And senior Government Ministers, politicians and senior public servants were implicated in the entire saga. It is only fair that the COI is established so that these people can be cleared.

But a COI can only be set up after final deliberation by the Supreme Court on the questions now before it to interpret regarding its process and relevance to such public inquiries.

And like Prime Minister O’Neill said, the process has not in any case prevented other investigating authorities including the police fraud squad, Ombudsman Commission and the Personnel Management Department from undertaking their own actions as they deem appropriate relating to the same matter.

Pending the final Supreme Court resolution of the reference on COIs, it should not be too difficult to deduce from the initial TOR of the administrative inquiry what should be pursued by relevant authorities now that the report has been tabled in Parliament.

The John Griffin QC led inquiry delivered as expected after their investigations since December, and good advice is now needed on progressing what has been recommended be it prosecution or further inquisition into the conduct of the people, public servants, Ministers and traditional landowners involved in the deal.

The initial assurance given by the Prime Minister when appointing QC Griffin and his team must be honoured in order to maintain the integrity of their findings and to also offset the due process of further perusal of the K46 million deal.

Mr O’Neill said then that the appointment will not prevent on-going investigations of the police fraud squad, the Ombudsman Commission and the Department of Personnel Management in respect of the staff and senior public servants that have been implicated in the matter.

He announced that the inquiry would look into the role of relevant Ministers, the role of relevant departmental heads and their officers, and heads of various state owned enterprises.

He said then that it would look at the role of the management of many of these organisations, the role of the Valuer General in terms of the valuations of the land that was purchased, and of course the recommendations of the inquiry was to be made to Cabinet within four weeks and a report to be Parliament on the findings.

That has already been achieved as promised by the Government.

But what is needed now is progressive action in order to conclude the findings and ensure any breaches of the law, corruption, abuse of office and criminal actions on the part of identified perpetrators are effectively brought to justice.

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Chinese cry foul over Duran Farm housing project

April 25, 2018 Leave a comment

See Also: Port Moresby’s housing crisis just got worse – Duran Farm Development rotten to the core

Source: The National

NATIONAL Capital District Governor Powes Parkop is concerned about the poor management of the joint Chinese-PNG government public housing project.

Parkop was told by a Chinese investor during a visit to China that he had being “misled” by the National Housing Corporation over the development of the multimillion kina housing project at Duran farm in Port Moresby .

Parkop said the Shenzhen-based Yinjiang industry expressed the concern during a visit to China by Parkop, Moresby South MP Justin Tkatchenko, city manager Bernard Kipit, city engineer Frank Ravu and financial adviser Augustine Ravi.

They went to Shenzhen city in China for a meeting on a sister city arrangement.

Parkop said the Yinjiang industry officials told the delegation in front of Shenzhen city deputy mayor Ai Xuefeng that they had invested K30 million in the housing project at Duran farm.

Parkop said they felt like they had been “taken for a ride”.

“It is a bit embarrassment for us to meet this type of problem when we are promoting investor confidence for more Chinese investment in PNG,” he said.

Parkop said the Yinjiang industry had already built 100 homes.

He said the NHC should have provided line services such as roads, sewerage, electricity and water to the project site.

“They have spent K30 million already and are getting nothing in return. So it doesn’t represent a good image of PNG,” he said.

He said they would raise the concern with Housing Minister John Kaupa. “I hope we can solve this problem so they can partner with us (NCDC) in the long run,” Parkop said.

Parkop said the National Capital District Commission’s housing project hoped to develop settlements into suburbs.

Kaupa had recently expressed his concern over how the housing project at Duran farm had been managed.

‘Gross manipulation and dishonesty’ over Manumanu land deals

April 24, 2018 1 comment

Ministers Pok and Duma have still to be cleared over their involvement in Manumanu land deal

“Gross amount of manipulation and dishonesty between the three key state agencies including Kumul Consolidated Holdings Limited, Defence Department and Lands Department”.

Source: The National

THE disappearance of files from the Lands Department on the Manumanu land deal points to “corruption” and “conspiracy”, according to an inquiry.

The report of the inquiry into the land transactions and deals by the Ministry of Public Enterprise and State Investment, and Ministry of Defence, was recently handed over by chairman John Anthony
Griffin QC to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

“The fact that the Lands Department files disappeared strongly supports the proposition that there was corruption involved and there is circumstantial evidence which supports the notion that there
was a wide-ranging conspiracy, such as the lengths some personnel in the Lands Department have gone through in removing all the files containing evidence relating to the transaction,” the report stated.

It said it needed a full investigation “to uncover the conspiracy”.

The report highlighted that the valuation of land Portion 406 at the cost of K46.6 million was so far in excess of the true value and was “fraudulently high”.

It said the Defence Council did not approve the land purchase “nor was there any feasibility studies being done on that portion of the land prior to the acquisition”.

The inquiry cleared the Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited, State Solicitor, Land Titles Commission and their department heads of any wrongdoing.

It said there was a “gross amount of manipulation and dishonesty between the three key state agencies including Kumul Consolidated Holdings Limited, Defence Department and Lands Department”.

Elomar brothers in $9 million legal row over PNG deal

April 23, 2018 Leave a comment

The Elomar brothers in Papua New Guinea.

By Patrick Begley, Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney businessmen the Elomar brothers were busy in 2014.

Mamdouh Elomar was publicly decrying the actions of his son Mohamed, an Islamic State fighter in Syria who would go on to be photographed holding severed heads.

Mamdouh was also vying for Iraqi construction contracts with his brother Ibrahim, arranging a $US1 million bribe for which they would both be jailed last year.

But the pair struck another deal that year, paying $6 million for a logging company only to end up negotiating a $9 million payment from the previous owners after a dispute.

The case, now before the courts, involves the forests of Papua New Guinea and a development fund meant to help lift locals out of poverty.

And it hinges on claims that another businessman stole more than $10 million in assets belonging to the Papua New Guinean people.

Mamdouh, 64, and Ibrahim, 61, were raised in Lebanon in a family of 12 children and worked manual jobs in Australia before building a large construction company, Lifese.

The firm counted a former Supreme Court judge as its chairman and completed projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In time, though, the Elomar brothers became better known for the extremist activities of their relatives.

Mamdouh’s brother Mohamed Ali Elomar is serving 21 years’ jail for his role in planning attempted terrorist attacks in Melbourne and Sydney in 2005.

Mamdouh’s son Ahmed was jailed for four years for assaulting a policeman at the 2012 riots in Sydney’s Hyde Park, after carrying a sign that said “our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell”.

Then his son Mohamed, formerly a promising boxer, travelled to Syria to become one of Australia’s most infamous IS fighters, before he was killed in an airstrike in 2015.

Terrorism headlines were hurting the Lifese business in 2014, shrinking revenue.

But the Elomars found money in February that year to buy a timber operation called Cloudy Bay from the PNG Sustainable Development Program, a charitable trust part-run by Australians.

Managing $US1.3 billion in assets, PNG SDP funds local development projects with proceeds from the Ok Tedi mine that was once owned by BHP, which handed over its stake in return for immunity from environmental lawsuits.

“We commit ourselves to improving the quality of life of the people of Western Province,” the program says on its website.

The Elomars were joined by another Australian, 25 per cent shareholder Nick Roniotis, in buying the Cloudy Bay timber operation – including logging permits, production plants and a commercial building in Port Moresby – for 40 million kina, about $17 million at the time.

They paid $6.5 million up front, but then defaulted on the rest.

As they faced charges over the bribery in Iraq, the Elomars were negotiating hard over the PNG business to strike a new and unusual deal.

It would have allowed them to keep control of the company while receiving millions of dollars more than they ended up paying for it.

The deal, signed last February, was meant to put an end to a murky dispute.

PNG SDP could have taken back all of the timber operations’ assets, but it decided to forgive the $11 million debt in return for the Port Moresby property alone.

On top of this, PNG SDP said it would pay the Elomars’ company $9 million.

Once the property was transferred back to the development program and the money paid, both sides would relinquish any right to sue over the initial sale.

The deal was fair, according to PNG SDP’s Australian chief executive John Wylie, because it compensated the Elomars for a massive theft on the timber operation.

A former public servant and management consultant, Mr Wylie said the theft was committed by someone working within the development fund before the sale to the Elomars and was only discovered later.

“Physical assets” were allegedly stolen and funds siphoned off to pay for personal expenses, including school fees in Australia.

“The validated quantum of the theft was much more than $9 million,” he said.

The alleged thief, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been reported to an anti-corruption body in Singapore, where the company was incorporated, Mr Wylie said.

“The PNG authorities are in the process of being informed,” he said. “This is being done carefully through lawyers and has yet to be fully executed.”

Deeds sighted by The Sun-Herald refer not to a theft but “disputes” between the buyer and seller.

Asked why the $9 million payment was to go to the Elomars personally, not the Cloudy Bay company, Mr Wylie said Cloudy Bay had given a written executed authority for it.

“How they divvied up the spoils, as it were – we didn’t want to get involved in that. None of our business.”

The deal has yet to go through.

The Elomars’ former business partner, Mr Roniotis, claimed he was cut out of the $9 million payment. He launched action in PNG’s National Court of Justice to have the sum paid to the timber company, not the Elomars’ venture.

Mr Roniotis also questioned the idea of compensation for a theft, saying he and the Elomars conducted due diligence on the company before buying it and found nothing untoward.

His lawyer, Stewart Levitt, has questioned the negotiations between PNG SDP and the Elomars, who at the time had been facing foreign bribery charges for more than a year.

“It would be extraordinary for the trustees of a public trust to want to continue to do business with people known to be facing serious criminal charges which had been widely reported,” Mr Levitt said.

The Elomars, who pleaded guilty to the Iraq bribery last July, will be first eligible for release in September next year. Their lawyer at the time of the PNG deal negotiations, Abdul Reslan, did not return calls.

The establishment of PNG SDP and environmental damage from the Ok Tedi mine is now under investigation after PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced a public inquiry in parliament this month.

Release the full Manumanu report!

April 23, 2018 2 comments

File picture of Ministers Duma and Pok after they stepped aside from their ministerial responsibilities pending the conclusion and outcomes of a Commission of Inquiry, which was then downgraded to an administrative inquiry

BY: Loop Author 

Transparency International Papua New Guinea (TIPNG) is calling on the Government to make a report on the Manumanu scandal available for public scrutiny.

This report cost taxpayers K2 million. Media outlets have not been given access to the full report into the payment of K46m made to a dubious business entity for land allegedly valued at only K10,000 in Central Province.

“The Administrative Inquiry was tabled on the floor of Parliament last Friday (13/04/18), and this week the formerly suspended Lands Secretary and the head of the MVIL have gone to the courts to be reinstated to their positions on the basis of this completed Inquiry,” said Lawrence Stephens, Chairman of TIPNG.

“This is in addition to Ministers William Duma and Fabian Pok who were also sidelined and subsequently reinstated by the Prime Minister after the 2017 National Elections and before the Manumanu Inquiry report had been completed.”

Since its tabling in Parliament, TIPNG has attempted to obtain the Manumanu Administrative Inquiry Report from the Government Printing Office and been informed that the full report has not been released by the Chief Secretary’s Office as custodians of Commissions of Inquiry.

TIPNG is calling on the Chief Secretary and the Department of PM & NEC to release the full report on their public website as a first step to making it available.

“Now that the report has been tabled in Parliament, the people of Central Province, the general public and media outlets must have access to the findings of the Manumanu Administrative Inquiry and we must reflect on whether it meets its original Terms of Reference,” said Stephens.

“For the Manumanu Inquiry to be complete it must include documents pertaining to the valuation and sale of the land as well as the NEC decision resulting in the K46m purchase with funds from the implicated agencies and leaders.

“If the report is deficient in any of these aspects it is difficult to see how it exonerates either of the two Ministers or eight Heads of Departments.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Filipino land grab doubles to 2 million hectares

March 28, 2018 Leave a comment

“Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neil [sic] instantly offered 100,000 hectares for planting even starting tomorrow, but can develop easily 2 million hectares in government lands for rice farming with irrigation.”

The problem is, the PNG government doesn’t have even 100,000 hectares of land, let alone 2 million hectares. So whose land are they going to use – and how many Filipino rice farmers are we going to allow into the country?

See also:

Filipino’s on their way to claim 1 million hectares

O’Neill and Allan stitch up another huge land grab

On Piñol’s idea to rise with rice in Papua New Guinea

Source: Michael Makabenta Alunan – Business Mirror

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s proposal to “export” Filipino private sector-led rice-farming systems to Papua New Guinea may have raised condescending eyebrows from economists and agriculture experts, but his novel strategy can perhaps open up vast potentials and unintended opportunities.

Thinking out of box? Piñol, a boxing aficionado early on in his career, even as a former journalist, long before he joined politics, was thinking out of the box when he proposed to bring high-end Filipino rice-farming systems to Papua New Guinea.

Only over a week ago, Piñol went to Papua New Guinea, a British Commonwealth Realm, and got its Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to commit to come over to meet with President Duterte sometime in May and possibly cement bilateral economic commitments, followed by a treaty that can institutionalize any mutually beneficial arrangements.

However, top-notch economists and agricultural planners led no less by former Socioeconomic Secretary Dr. Cielito Habito and former Agriculture Secretary William Dar have criticized Piñol, asking two valid questions: 1) Why focus on “rice self-sufficiency” when we cannot compete against Thailand’s and Vietnam’s production costs of rice at P5 to P6 per kilo against P10 to P12 per kilo in the Philippines? Many economists would therefore advise to give up the elusive goal of self-sufficiency, and settle instead for food security while focusing on higher incomes from other high-value cash crops and livelihood activities; and 2) Why go to Papua New Guinea when we have more problems locally?

Can’t do away with rice yet. Speaking on March 22 before the 2017 Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc. and San Miguel Corp.’s BINHI Agricultural Journalism Awards, Piñol argued we cannot simply abandon rice self-sufficiency, unless Filipinos change their diets and reduce their rice consumption.

For the poor, who survive on a hand-to-mouth existence, 80 percent to 90 percent of their income is spent on food, the bulk on rice to fill their hungry stomachs and less on real food. A study by Professor Jeyakumar, a rice dietary expert and one-time fellow of the International Rice Research Institute, noted that obesity of Westerners like the Americans is caused by almost 40 percent in high-fat diets, compared to Asians, whose average diets are composed of 67 percent carbohydrates, mostly rice, and only 21 percent fats. For the dirt poor, rice may even share as much as 90 percent of their diet.

As our traditional sources of rice imports, Vietnam and Thailand are also vulnerable to climate change with Thailand devastated by a tsunami years back, Piñol claims we must continue aiming for rice self-sufficiency and developing alternative sources like Papua New Guinea.

It’s no “Guinea pig,” it’s real! Piñol argues the rice-farming potentials in Papua New Guinea are real and tremendous based on actual pilot results. This makes Piñol’s idea no longer a “guinea-pig experiment,” referring to how scientists use rodents or laboratory rats, popularly called “guinea pigs.”

Actual rice-farming experiments done in Papua New Guinea yielded 8.5 metric tons per hectare, even without fertilizers, even double our national average yield of 4MT per hectare, he revealed in conversations while seated at the BINHI awards.

The reasons for this are 1) Papua New Guinea is blessed with good rainfall with its remaining lush forests and watersheds as evidenced by its vast rivers as wide as a kilometer, and easily diverted to feed irrigation canals; and 2) Papua New Guinea’s farm soils are vastly virgin and rich, unlike Philippine rice lands that are already toxic from four to five decades of chemical fertilizer and pesticide usage.

All the land to offer. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neil instantly offered 100,000 hectares for planting even starting tomorrow, but can develop easily 2 million hectares in government lands for rice farming with irrigation.

“PNG has only 8 million people and over 46.28 million hectares of land, mostly forest and agricultural lands, compared to our 105 million and 30 million hectares, respectively,” Piñol said.

Rice farming will mutually benefit both countries. Rice farming will be done exclusively by the private sector, but can tap Filipino workers. Any excess produce can be exported cheap to the Philippines, and any excess exported worldwide. For Papua New Guinea, producing its own rice is novel, as it had long been sourcing rice from former surrogate colonizer, Australia, which allegedly imports cheap rice from Vietnam, then sells it to Papua New Guinea by as much as P100 per kilo.

Pursuing the Papua New Guinea option is logical for Piñol, as we have limited rice lands of 4.8 million hectares. In fact, only 3.9 million hectares are planted to rice, of which only 1.2 million hectares have irrigation, the remaining 2.7 million hectares are rain-fed areas producing only once a year at low yields.

New sites, new sights? As an island archipelago, we have fewer flat lands suitable to rice producing thrice a year, but more sloping mountain areas with mixed eco-systems, including adjacent marine and mangrove areas. Piñol added traditional rice sites like Luzon and Bicol are ravaged yearly by 21 typhoons a year.

We won’t abandon these areas, but we need to develop new sites like Palawan, Samar, Agusan, Zamboanga, Davao, Basilan and Soccsksargen and, of course, in Papua New Guinea.

Piñol declared earlier that even former warzones in Mindanao and portions of military reservations like Fort Magsaysay’s 46,000 hectares, can be converted to production areas. This will realize the biblical phrase of “converting swords to ploughshares,” which we can call transforming arms into farms.

While Piñol is confident of hitting 100-percent rice self-sufficiency by 2020, he says the growing population will overtake our capacity to produce. Thus, the need to develop new sites, and the urgency to keep our sights on new ideas, new technologies and even achieve unintended opportunities, which, ironically, are the very intended targets of our economists and experts. As we gain from new sites, old sites may slowly shift to non-rice, but more profitable commodities and other agro-processing ventures.

Illegal Logging Site Shut-Down, Asians Jailed

March 16, 2018 3 comments

BY NELLIE SETEPANO, Post Courier

AN illegal logging company operating in Northern Province was shut down and 13 Asians without work permits were locked up at the Popondetta cells.

Northern Province Police have confirmed the shutdown of the illegal logging company known as Northern Forest Products at Collingwood Bay, Wanigela with thousands of logs and heavy equipment impounded. All logs and equipment will be moved to Oro Bay.

Provincial Police Commander Chief Inspector Lincoln Gerari said police had acted on advise from National Forest Authority to move onto the site and shut it down after its illegal operations on 45,000 hectares state land that consists of portions 135, 136 and 137.

“We moved in last Friday and caught them off guard, the Asians were cooking pumpkins, and then fled into the bushes and our men went after them,” Gerari said.

When caught, the men complained that they were never fed properly and or paid by the site manager since arriving last September.

Police said the loggers arrived with no legal entry permits and are now arrested and charged under the Employment of Non-Citizens acts 2007. Aged between 28 to 50 years; 12 of the men are from Malaysia and one from Indonesia. This section provides for prohibition of employment without valid work permit. Separately, the site manager was charged for stealing logs on state.

According to police, the provincial government had a keen eye on the operations of the company that had entered into a partnership with landowner group called Aiso [Assor] Development Corporation under the pretext of doing agricultural business and growing cash crops like cocoa.

Northern Governor Garry Juffa who has been aware of the illegal operations and had brought the issue to the attention of National Forest Authority and ensured the shut down happened. He also visited the site after the raid and confirmed the shutdown.

Mr Juffa talked to the villages and assured those involved will be prosecuted.

The governor has been vocal about illegal aliens operating in the province and vowed to remove them.