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Archive for February, 2014

G4s staff accused of attacking inmates at Papua New Guinea detention centre

February 21, 2014 4 comments

Guards hired by scandal-prone British firm accused of using iron bars and rocks during riot at Australian offshore immigration detention centre

People hold banners and chant slogans as they protest outside the Immigration Deprtment building in Brisbane, Australia Photo: EPA

People hold banners and chant slogans as they protest outside the Immigration Deprtment building in Brisbane, Australia Photo: EPA

Jonathan Pearlman | Daily Telegraph (UK)

Guards employed by scandal-hit British security firm G4S have been accused of using iron bars and rocks to attack detainees at Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

Though details of the riot remain sketchy, several witnesses have claimed that uniformed local G4S guards were behind the attacks, which left one detainee dead and 77 injured.

“They started beating them… some of them with sticks and some of them with all these hose, rubber hose and pipes,” an unnamed witness told ABC News.

“[The detainees] were trying to hide themselves… but the G4S went in, opened the room and pulled them out and [belted] all of them.”

The camp, on Manus Island, which holds about 1,300 asylum seekers, has been criticised as inhumane and unlawful by the United Nations and rights groups.

Local guards from G4S have told reporters they were outnumbered by hundreds of angry detainees who threw stones and shouted insults.

“They were swearing at us… so they start throwing stones and start pushing gates,” a guard told ABC News. “So what we do is we all G4S local nationals and expats we just rushed in to save our counterparts. So that’s where the trouble began and the fight started.”

Another said: “They were fighting, throwing things at us. So some of us were hit and we retaliated.”

G4S said its guards at the centre were not armed and that it was concerned about the allegations. It promised to support an official inquiry.

“Our personnel on duty during the disturbances acted with courage, strength and determination to protect those in our care,” the firm said.

Ashley Almanza , the head of G4S, the world’s largest security group, admitted late last year that it needed to “invest more in risk management” following a series scandals.

The firm, which operates in more than 125 countries worldwide, was heavily criticised for failing to hire enough security guards for the 2012 London Olympics. Its staff were also accused of torturing inmates at a South African prison.

The riots at Manus Island are being investigated by Papua New Guinea police, but the nation’s prime minister, Peter O’Neill, insisted that police fired shots “to calm things down”.

Australia has reopened its two Pacific island detention centres in the past 18 months in an attempt to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat from south-east Asia. Both centres have now been the scenes of violent riots. Australia’s Green Party has said that the Manus Island centre should be closed to prevent further “horror”.

Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, has also ordered an investigation into the G4S incident but said he would not succumb to “moral blackmail” to close down the centre.

“We will ensure these camps are run fairly, if necessary firmly,” he said.

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Read about other G4S scandals on PNG Exposed:

Australia lectures PNG on corruption and underdevelopment… Where is that mirror?

February 17, 2014 4 comments

Goodie. The Australian government has returned to the lectern to chastise PNG over corruption and lack of development. Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has slammed the PNG government claiming corruption is rife, and laments PNG’s backward slide on the Millennium Development Goals.

julie-bishop2Which would be fine, were it not an act of complete policy schizophrenia. Because while the Australian Foreign Minister tut-tuts at PNG, her government – and those before it – pursue an economic agenda in PNG that fosters corruption and undermines community-led, sustainable ‘development’.

What’s more ‘aid’ is a key weapon employed by Australia to engineer economic arrangements in PNG it says will alleviate ‘poverty’, but which in reality have fostered corruption, a growing criminal economy, epic land grabs, a bloated extractive industry, lunar landscapes, and a decade long war.

For instance, no one has been more proactive in pushing the sale of PNG’s mineral, oil and gas resources to foreign multinationals than the Australia government, with AusAID – now part of DFAT – at the forefront of these efforts through its ‘mining for development’ programme. According to DFAT, ‘the mining sector has considerable potential to help reduce poverty, accelerate human development and economic growth, and support progress towards the Millennium Development Goals’.

In reality it creates a bonanza for Australian/Canadian/Chinese/US miners and construction firms, who conveniently turn a blind eye to the big black hole they dump their tax revenues into – and claim, contrary to all the evidence, that they are helping to ‘develop’ PNG.

The fact is these revenues are pumped into government coffers, and then national ‘entrepreneurs’, with a supporting cast of foreign criminals, devise a whole series of scams to privatise it, ensuring minimal amounts make it into aid posts, schools, roads, communications, universities and infrastructure (when it does, it is often decimated by bribery and inflated prices submitted by client contractors).

The scams vary in complexity. Sometimes they involve blatant misappropriation of money and assets, in more complex examples they consist of inflated contracts, bogus consultancies, jobs for mates, sham law suits, privatisation of public assets … the list goes on and on.

All of which is sustained because PNG lacks a real economy, one built around the everyday sweat shed by rural and urban workers. Instead there has emerged a fictitious economy built on misappropriation and swindle, which is propped up by the tribute (tax) paid by miners to political intermediaries (corrupted government agencies).  And lets not be naive – the miners are aware of the graft, and are content to see it continue. National leaders working for money are obedient, those working for the people don’t dance as readily to the multinational’s tunes.

And what is the other big Australian agenda that has been pushed by AusAID, and its academic satellites, over the years? Why the privatisation of customary land, through land registration schemes. If customary landowners were able to convert vast tracts of land into economic assets, so the argument goes, PNG could experience a grass roots economic boom.

Yet we know in those instances where land in PNG has been ‘converted’ into economic assets it has sparked a frenzy of white collar criminality. First the land is acquired through a series of illegal transactions, be it through defrauding customary owners or paying off friends in the Lands Department. The alienated asset then becomes part of a black economy, a reality that is covered up by the ‘legal’ leases proudly displayed by the villains. With their crooked schemes hidden under a cloak of legality these mainly foreign land-grabbers can then take advantage of sky-rocketing urban housing prices, or prey upon the country’s rich forestry resources. The national elite cashes in as fixers for these crooked deals, drawing on their political and customary connections.

All of this is laid out in the SABL inquiry reports, and Public Account Committee inquiries, currently collecting dust.

And some of the biggest names in PNG politics and business, have been involved in these nefarious trades and schemes. The likes of Peter Yama, Paul Paraka, Peter O’Neill, Michael Nali, Andrew Mald, Rex Paki, Gabriel Kapris, Tom Amaiu, Beldan Namah, Paul Tiensten, Eramus Wortoto, Puka Temu, William Duma, to name just a few, have been condemned in anti-corruption reporting, judicial inquiries, and in the pages of PNG Exposed.

So, in effect here is how it works. The Australian government wants to see a business and political elite mobilised so PNG can be converted into a giant market, on which its natural resources are the main traded item. Evidently the trickle down effect will lift villages out of what the aid boffins call ‘poverty’.

In reality it has 1) built a fictitious economy resting on the rents generated by a bloated extractive industry; 2) facilitated a black trade in land and forestry resources; 3) allowed a national elite, embedded in illegal enterprises, to consolidate their power and wealth-base, creating a stranglehold on the top jobs in government.

And then what happens when our honourable leaders park their ill-gotten gains in the Queensland economy, to the cheers of real estate agents? It falls on deaf ears in Australia. And what happens when Aussie fraudsters steal from our public purse, or concoct schemes to take our resources? It falls on deaf ears in Australia. And what happens when rural communities attempt to work collectively in order to harness their own resources in small-scale industries constructed in the spirit of sustainable, self-reliance? Nothing, they are not encouraged or assisted, indeed a self-reliant nation of autonomous producers is to be feared, and dependency is instead actively encouraged by Australia – dependency on mining revenues, dependency of foreign ‘investors’, dependency on resource rents, dependency on foreign ‘advice’, never autonomy, never self-reliance, never self-determination, never self-belief.

Julie Bishop, if PNG is a monster Australia is Dr Frankenstein!

Frankenstein

Crooked Aussies descend on Paga Hill… again

February 12, 2014 11 comments

In 2013, PNG Exposed revealed the crooked characters standing behind the demolition of Paga Hill in Port Moresby – which saw Dame Carol Kidu arrested and man-handled by heavily armed police.

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The ‘development’ is led by Australian businessman, Gudmundur Fridriksson, a man slammed in two Auditor General reports and four Public Accounts Committee inquiries. In the most serious example, Fridriksson was accused by both the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee of stealing money from deceased Papua New Guinean estates entrusted to the Public Curator’s Office. Nice.

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The House Deceased Papua New Guineans Built – Fridriksson’s Plush QLD Residence

Not to be outdone, he is now trying to once again demolish a forty year old Port Moresby community, who first resided on the land at Paga at the invitation of its customary owners.

Subsequently the Australian High Court found that the colonial administration had successfully acquired the land from customary owners – for no compensation – a few ‘corrupt’ transactions later, and it got into the hands of Fridriksson and his Australian friends during the 1990s.

Now with the help of their Port Moresby lawyer, Stanley Liria, a friend of the Prime Minister, and the former Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Nali, another friend of the Prime Minister, they have acquired an eviction order from the courts.

Of course, the Lands Secretary could cancel the lease, like was ordered back in 2006. But why would he? After all Mr Romilly Kila-Pat unlawfully dropped the rent for Fridriksson back in 2001, losing the state hundreds of thousands of Kina in rent! And his hands are all over illegal SABLs.

Birds of a feather flock together, it would appear.

The community have been told they have 45 days to get out of a place they have lived since the 1960s.

Fridriksson has offered Paga residents what will in effect be a tenancy at will over at six-mile on customary land, right next to a defunct dump full of hospital and industrial waste. Nice.

The community does not want to leave. Their leaders want to see Paga Hill’s national park status restored and Paga Hill turned into Port Moresby’s first community run arts, culture and history precinct. They certainly have the talent.

A song recorded by the community to document their abuse at the hands of Fridriksson.

In the land of the unexpected, you can expect one thing – speculators from abroad with a long list of infamies to their name, come first, and law abiding PNG citizens come last.

Landowners getting restless as PM refuses to revoke illegal leases

February 4, 2014 4 comments

Biggest Land Grab in PNG HistoryThere are reports coming in from around the country that landowners are becoming very frustrated and anxious over the failure of the government to revoke illegal SABL leases and restore more than 5 million hectares of land to its customary owners.

Commissioner Numapo says his Commission’s report is fueling the anger as it clearly spells out the leases are illegal, the landowners have been cheated and the leases should be revoked…

PNG Land Inquiry Commissioner wants action on flawed leases

ABC Radio Australia

The Chairman of Papua New Guinea’s land scandal Inquiry says action is needed to revoke flawed leases over millions of hectares of traditional land.

Three Commissioners took more than a year to investigate how 11 per cent of the country’s land mass was leased out and if landowners had given their consent.

Many of the leases are for 99 years.

In his first interview since the Inquiry finished Chief Commissioner, John Numapo, says it is clear 66 leases should be revoked and he expresses concern at the pace of government action.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Commissioner John Numapo

GARRETT: In the space of a decade more than 5 million hectares of Papua New Guinea’s traditional land was leased out under what are known as Special Agricultural and Business leases or SABLs.

The leases were meant for small agricultural projects but in many cases were used by logging companies, without permission of landowners, to get control over vast tracks of forest.

When Prime Minister Peter O’Neill presented the findings of the Inquiry to parliament, in September last year, he said the Inquiry had revealed a shocking trend of corruption and mismanagement.

The commisioners investigated 75 separate leases but because one of them Alois Jerewai failed to submit his report the Prime Minister was only able to present the findings for 42 leases.

Chief Commissioner John Numapo says, in the interests of landowners, Commissioner Jerewai needs to finish his report.

NUMAPO: He should have delivered his report because whatever the stated hiccough or financial difficulties that we experienced throughout the life of the Inquiry we all have gone through that and yet Commissioner Mirou and I were able to furnish our final report because we were given a deadline and that was made known to the whole lot of us. So really there is no real excuse for Commissioner Jerewai not to deliver his report. And I think that is the only setback, in my opinion, to what has been a very successful Inquiry.

Prime Minister O’Neill told parliament 38 leases had been found to be seriously compromised.

Commissioner Numapo, says even though Commissioner Jerewai has not reported his findings, it is obvious 66 of the 75 leases investigated did not have a legally valid certificate of alienability.

Mr Numapo says that means the government must revoke them.

NUMAPO: That is the only option that is available. The law is very clear on that. SABL process and mechanisms as covered under section 11 and 102 of the Land Act and the titles have to be properly issued. And if it does not comply with the process and procedures in issuing all these leases then obviously they have been unlawfully issued and therefore the only option is left now to the government is to have them revoked as per our recommendations and our findings.

GARRETT: No action has been taken to revoke the leases and the only action the government has taken so far is to refer the recommendations to an interdepartmental task force. Is the government moving too slowly?

NUMAPO: I would have thought so because the report was given to the government in June of last year and you know, it is almost probably 7 or 8 months now and the report has been tabled in parliament. And unfortunately it was only two reports, ah, but yes when the report was tabled in parliament I understand the Prime Minister made a commitment to ensuring the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry is implemented so we are all waiting on that to happen. Those recommendations have to be implemented because it is affecting the people and especially the customary landowners.

GARRETT: Are you concerned that the government is losing the will to act?

NUMAPO: As in everything else in PNG I think they will get to it one day but the sooner they move on it the better it will be. And I have seen recently in the local media that some landowners have got a copy of the report and are calling on the government to immediately implement the recommendations, particularly on the SABLs that have been unlawfully issued as there are findings and recommendations to have that lease revoked or surrendered, whatever the case is, and they have now called on the government to act on it and move quickly on it. So we will just wait on what the government might do in the next couple of months

Mr Daveona and Pariu – Where has the Panguna Landowners’ Trust Money Gone?

February 3, 2014 4 comments

Missing annual returns, over K400,000 in assets unaccounted for and a general lack of financial accountability raise serious questions about the management of landowner funds…

Francis Ona and Perpetua Serero, like many in the mine community, thought something was amiss with the Panguna Landowners Association in 1987. PLA’s self-appointed leadership had lost touch with the everyday struggle of villagers, and were climbing the corporate ladder using their position at the PLA as leverage.

Young, dynamic and articulate, Serero and Ona challenged the PLA executive to an election, on an anti-mining and community development platform. They won in a landslide.

During 1988 the new PLA leaders turned their eyes to deep problems within the Road Mining Tailings Leases Trust Fund, an organisation that had been set up to administer a range of mine compensation payments.

With the Trust administered by the ousted PLA executive there were widespread concerns that its funds were being used for the benefit of the Trust’s Directors who were said to be receiving relatively ‘lavish Director’s fees’, in a report issued by Applied Geology Associates. Serero and Ona, as PLA Chairperson and Secretary respectively, attempted to assume control of the Trust and implement a thorough audit of its accounts. This was resisted by the Trust’s Directors, who successfully blocked Ona and Serero in the courts.

As a result, to this day the Trust fund, and its substantial asset base, is administered by its Directors Michael Pariu (who is the Trust’s Chairman), Lawrence Daveona (who is also  the Trust Secretary), Severinus Ampaoi, and Peter Perakai (Pariu, Daveona and Perakai were all part of the PLA executive ousted in 1987). The Trust shares are held by Lawrence Daveona, Michal Pariu, Wendelinus Bitanuma, Steven Tampura, and Michael Totobu [Entity_Extract-Road_Mining_Tailings_Leases_Trustee Ltd].

It is in this context that there are serious concerns over how the latter parties have been managing the Trust funds, which are meant to benefit the entire mine affected community.

In the Trust’s 2001 annual return [Annual Return 2001] its assets are valued at K1,511,163, with no liabilities outstanding. Were this sizable sum invested in even a low yielding security, we would expect to see a modest increase over the last decade. Yet in their 2010 Annual Return – worryingly, none have been submitted for 2011-13 – the Trust’s finances have dropped half a million kina to K1,095,901 [Annual Return 2010].

So where exactly did the K415,262 go?

Unfortunately we do not know the financial position of the Trust prior to 2001. But according to its own Director, Secretary and Shareholder, Lawrence Daveona, it had become by 1990 a ‘multimillion kina company’ with stakes in the Investment Corporation of PNG, Anglo Holdings Limited, Niugini-Lloyds Bank, the Bougainville Development Corporation, numerous plantations and various investment properties. Some of these assets may have been damaged during the conflict, but like BCL whose insurer compensated the company for losses in assets, the Trust presumably insured these investments and was compensated.

However, a lack of published records means we have no way of telling how these numerous investments were handled by the Trust during the 1990s, when most Bougainvilleans were busy dodging bullets and bombs, or whether losses in funds have been accounted for. Complicating matters, the trust’s financial administration has not been subjected to the scrutiny of an external auditor for over a decade (only companies with K5 million + assets must be audited under the Companies Act 1997).

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Lawrence Daveona and Michael Pariu have appeared on this blog. In 2013 we published leaked documents showing that Daveona had received thousands in cash payments between 2009-2011 from BCL’s shareholder’s association. This revelation came following Daveona reported sacking as Acting Deputy Clerk of PNG’s Parliament. According to the Post Courier he illicitly supplied, ‘alcohol, vehicles and other resources … [to] Fraud Squad officers to carry out investigations against certain senior officers of the Parliamentary services’.

We also published photos of Michael Pariu, Lawrence Daveona and Severinus Ampaoi, socialising with the controversial BCL shareholder, Axel Sturm, in an exclusive Port Moresby hotel – Sturm recently claimed Bougainvilleans live in the ‘stone age’, and has promised to turn Bougainville into the new ‘United Arab Emirates’.

Image: Daveona and Pariu with Axel Sturm.

Image: Daveona and Pariu with Axel Sturm.

We also know from historical accounts that BCL fought tooth and nail, to have Daveona and Pariu restored as leaders of the PLA during 1988 – indeed internal BCL records  suggest the company even told the government to have the new leadership arrested, so the old unelected executive could be returned.

We wonder why?

Ona and Serero warned when ‘Chiefs’ work for money rather than the people, foreign corporations can make them dance to whatever tune they choose.

Fast forward to 2014, and the Prime Minister’s historic visit to Bougainville. We now have Lawrence Daveona, accompanied by Michael Pariu, telling the Post-Courier that ‘the Landowners of Panguna mine and the surrounding leases were united for the re-opening of the mine’.

Following their resounding defeat at the hands of Ona and Serero in 1987, both Pariu and Daveona have repositioned themselves as leaders of the pro-mining landowner faction.

But before these two men start eyeing the new prize, it is time for them to publicly explain what has happened to the landowning community’s ‘multimillion’ investment administered through the Trust since 1989.