Home > Corruption, Human rights, Land, Papua New Guinea > Paga Hill: Property developer Gummi Fridriksson on leave to concentrate on business interests in PNG

Paga Hill: Property developer Gummi Fridriksson on leave to concentrate on business interests in PNG

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Natasha Robinson | The Australian 

The Cairns-based Cape York Institute has confirmed its chief executive, property developer Gummi Fridriksson, is on extended leave without pay.

The institute’s group chief executive, Duncan Murray, issued a statement saying Mr Fridriksson “has been and continues to be on extended leave without pay to enable him to concentrate on his business interests in Papua New Guinea”.

Mr Murray issued a glowing endorsement of Mr Fridriksson, whose Port Moresby property venture attracted international notoriety after settlers’ homes were bulldozed.

“Whilst at the institute, (Mr Fridriksson) discharged his duties diligently and professionally,” Mr Murray said.

As revealed in The Australian last Tuesday, Mr Fridriksson is the secretary of the PNG-registered Paga Hill Development Company, which acquired a commercial lease over a prime piece of real estate overlooking the harbour in Port Moresby in a land deal that was heavily criticised by a parliamentary committee in the Pacific nation.

The PHDC insists the granting of the lease was proper, despite a government exemption from tender, and that all lease covenants were complied with and appropriate rentals paid.

The British-based International State Crime Initiative  – affiliated with King’s College London and the universities of Hull and Ulster  – published a report last week heavily criticising the land deal, which culminated in the demolition of settlers’ homes by PHDC in May, acting on a court-ordered eviction notice.

The settlers, some whose families have lived at Paga Hill since the mid-20th century, have refused to move to make way for the multi-million-dollar development that Mr Fridriksson’s company wants to build.

PHDC says it has “set a new precedent in PNG” for compassionate treatment of settlers, who have no underlying title to the land on which they live.

“PHDC has spent more than $2 million to help resolve the settler issue out of goodwill and good heart.

“Our efforts should be congratulated,” the company said.

Mr Fridriksson was promoted to the position of chief executive at the Cape York Institute last year and has directed Noel Pearson’s radical program of welfare reform for several years.

The institute said Mr Fridriksson had been on leave without pay for the past month but did not indicate how long the leave will extend.

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  1. JUDY
    October 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Write and tell that chief executive of Cape York Insitute,this Fridriksson ,he must be have two personalities;cause what he did to the Paga Hill settlers is just inhuman.He is a carpet beggar and Papua New Guineans who are in the same boat as he is cannot seem to have enough of him..his record says it all and yet Papua New Guineans welcome him with an open arm..sicking!!!!!

  2. Bonip Panuta
    October 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    You will really need to be a Papua New Guinean to understand what is happening. Mr Fridricksson has been unfairly treated by the international media. The illegal settlers were given a golden opportunity – title to their own land. They were not evicted overnight…the negotiations with them took more than 8 months but they refused to move.

    I have been following the Paga Hill Development with keen interest for a while. Many people have have actually commented on the issue but their comments have been more emotional and lacked perhaps a proper appreciation of the situation.

    One needs to sit back and properly assess what is happening on Paga Hill and the different issues involved such as:
    1. The rights of Illegal settlers versus the rights of legal owners;
    2. Human rights abuse; and
    3. Development and progress versus the rights of illegal settlers.

    On the first point, it is becoming a problem in PNG where genuine title holders are held to ranson by illegal settlers. I recently acquired a piece of land in which some people are actually living on. I want to develop my land and have for the last three years told them in writing at least three times and more than 20 times verbally of my intention to move into my land and develop it. They are refusing to vacate my land. The only option available for me now is to use force. I don’t want to do that but may well have to because they won’t listen. They have even demaned compensation from me before they move out. For what??? It is frustrating to say the say. Opportunities for developing the land have gone begging and I am loosing out in the end. The illegal settlers have rights? Well so do I and my patience is running out.

    Now that brings me to the second point – human rights abuse. If I get the police and forcefully (that is the only option available) remove them from my land I will be accused of human rights abuse. But what about the abuse of my rights to enjoy the benefits of my land?

    The third point – development versus the rights of illegal settlers (do illegal settlers have rights?) I want to build residential units for lease on my land. The people squatting on my land have got a tucker shop which sells liquor (blackmarket). They also encourage gambling on my land. My proposed development would really give the area a face lift and at the same time earn some extra money for myself. But I am still poor and held at ransom by illegal settlers who it seems have much more and over-riding rights to mine.

    That is why I can relate to and find so much commonality with the Paga Hill Development.

    At this point in time a group of illegal settlers are holding the developer, and the nation to ransom. Paga Hill, for all intents and purposes, is a no-go zone for many Papua New Guineans, although it has one of the most spectacular views in the NCD.

    The Paga Hill Development I understand will achive a number of things:
    1. Open and free up the hill to the nation and the world to enjoy its scenic views;
    3. Rebuild the wartime bunkers for Papua New Guinean as well as international tourists;
    4. Transform Paga Hill into a national icon and boost the profile of NCD and PNG;
    5. Provide jobs and economic opportunities for thousands of Papua New Guineans;

    Are we going to allow a few illegal settlers to stop this development?

    For those do gooders who are talking about human rights issues I am amazed that you are picking on this project. There are hundreds of families who have been ruthlessly and forcefully evicted from their homes in the NCD without even a word of sympathy from you so called human rights activist. Go to Gerehu and you will find an old lady with her grandchildren out on the street. These and many other eviction have not been challenged. The old lady and many in her situation were not given an alternative. At least for Paga Hill the illegal settlers have actually been given a plot of land – land which they have title over. What more can you ask for? The company has done something not many would be willing to do or do not have the means to. I want to move those illegal settlers from my land – it is not my problem but I feel for them but I just don’t have the means to offer them an alternative. Then again, why should I, afterall, it is my land and they are illegally settling on it?

    For Paga Hill, the stubboness of the illegal settlers could be seen to mean two things:
    1. They are being misled by some other interests;
    2. They are expecting to be paid out before they can move out. Someone may have told them the ringroad was coming and that it has been practice for the state to assess “their property” and pay them out for them to move. But what legal basis or rights do they have?

    These are just some of my observations. I wish those championing the illegal settlers cause are more objective then they have been. Some of them have never been on Paga Hill but or PNG for that matter but write as if they are experts.

    Thank you.

    Bonip

  3. Kris
    October 20, 2012 at 1:46 am

    Bonip, I am one of those ‘do gooders’ you mentioned. People can read my report on the forced eviction here: http://statecrime.org/online_article/the-demolition-of-paga-hill-a-report-by-the-international-state-crime-initiative/

    And I have been to Paga Hill many times – I also visited PNG’s public accounting agencies when conducting my research.

    Just to pick up on a few points.

    “Mr Fridricksson has been unfairly treated by the international media”.

    Well his companies have been censured in two Auditor General reports and four Public Account Committee reports.

    I suggest concerned Papua New Guineans 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 (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: http://statecrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Appendix-F1.pdf

    Now with respect to your other three points.

    1. 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

    2. 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. 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. I am sorry Bonip to hear your land is being damaged by gamblers and blackmarket alcohol. Paga Hill is nothing like this. About half the population are employed in the formal economy, while the other half work in the informal economy, like most Papua New Guineans.

    Now just to finish, you seem confident that PHDC will achieve great things. Fair enough. Indeed, they told the public Hilton Hotels were going to help run the proposed 5-star hotel. Sadly, it is not true: http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=69568

    It is always wise to verify claims, before accepting them.

  4. Joe Moses
    January 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I want Mr. Bonip to come down to Paga Hill Settlement and talk to me. I am in a better position to enlighten him on the real issue. It is a waste of everybody’s time making UN-profound statement that you know nothing about. Kris had been with the community for three solid weeks doing an investigative research on this matter. Lastly I want to assure my fellow Papua New Guineans, stand up for what is right and uphold you identity as a citizen of this country and DO NOT LET OTHERS MANIPULATE YOUR BIRTH RIGHTS AND REGARD YOU AS A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN OF YOUR OWN LAND. There are laws pertaining to relocation and re settlements for that matter. I really want the SWAP team to investigate the dealings of Paga Hill Development Company and its directors. Finally, I want to say that, this is 2013 and NOT 1945 or 46 for that matter, no more paper companies and let us be honest in dealing with state land and customary land to benefit what ever desires that we want to persure. Especially when we are in power, we want to manipulate the system to please ourselves, that is greed and corruption of its worst kind. ALL GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY ARE SET UP BY GOD ALMIGHTY. (Please do the right thing).

  1. October 24, 2012 at 5:27 am

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