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Papua New Guinea University of Technology’s exiled V-C fights to return

March 27, 2014 9 comments

David Matthews | Times Education Supplement

Students protest in support of Dutch-born university head Albert Schram, expelled by the government in 2013

Source: Ronnie Noan

Source: Ronnie Noan

Flying the flag for Schram: Unitech students march in protest to get their vice-chancellor reinstated after his sudden, unexplained deportation in February 2013

Albert Schram is a university leader in exile. He is the vice-chancellor of Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech), but in February 2013 he was deported and has been forced to live in Australia ever since.

Schram has even been declared a “threat to national security” by the country’s former higher education minister.

His bizarre tale sheds an extraordinary light on the parlous state of higher education in Papua New Guinea, where, according to Schram, tribal fights erupt on campus, support staff live in slums and scholars are cut off from the wider scholarly community and current research.

But Schram is hopeful that he will return and believes that a series of simple reforms could help to improve the nation’s universities, many of which could be carried out without requiring additional funding from the impoverished Pacific country.

Before taking up the vice-chancellor’s post in February 2012, Dutch-born Schram worked in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in sustainable development policy and environmental economics.

When he arrived at Unitech, which is located near Lae in Morobe province and is one of the country’s two major state universities, he was faced with an almost insurmountable set of challenges.

The year before Schram arrived, he says, there had been a “huge fight” between two groups of students, who were divided along tribal lines, in which one student died.

In 2012, with tensions once again mounting between the rival tribes, he was told by one of the group’s student leaders: “I can’t hold my boys any more.” According to Schram, campus security officers had to fire their guns into the air to stop another all-out battle.

Fortunately, the leaders of the two tribal groups were able to resolve their differences through dialogue, and the gangs formalised this with a “beautiful” traditional reconciliation dance, he recounts.

Malaria is endemic on campus, Schram explains, although students “seldom” die. When he became vice-chancellor, he instituted monthly sprayings of the site with insecticide to combat the disease. Tuberculosis is also a serious “threat” at the university, he adds.

The university typically experiences 10 to 15 power cuts a day, which plays “havoc” with servers required for internet access, and thus “we don’t have reliable broadband on campus”, he says. Instead, the university has to resort to a satellite connection to access the web.

“It’s really terrible,” Schram says, adding with irony that Papua New Guinea is “one of the countries where you’re sufficiently ‘protected’ from the internet”.

Partly for this reason, Unitech academics – 5 to 10 per cent of whom are from outside Papua New Guinea – have little access to work already done in their fields, and therefore must conduct “original” research. However, in such a situation, “you risk inventing the wheel many times over”, Schram observes.

But even these pursuits can be luxuries for scholars. In Papua New Guinea, Schram says, “universities are understaffed, the teaching loads are high, so there’s no time for research”.

Salaries for academics are far from competitive, he notes, limiting Unitech’s ability to attract even local scholars.

The university’s academics are at least lucky enough to have proper housing provided for them by the university. Support staff, however, are paid about $500 (£300) a month, Schram says, and have to live in what he calls “dangerous and unlicensed” slums.

Officially, the government should grant the university about $15,000 a year to educate each student, according to Schram. (About 1,000 science and engineering students graduate from Unitech annually.)

But in reality only about half of this per-student funding is actually received. “The only solution is that universities run up their debt and that’s what’s been happening,” he adds.

‘Right noises’, but no funding

Last July, the media reported that David Arore, then minister for higher education, research, science and technology, had pledged an extra $222 million in funding for the country’s university sector.

“The policies are good on paper and the ministers make the right noises in Parliament,” Schram says. But since the announcement, nothing has materialised, he claims.

“My criticism [of the government] is that they are breaking the promises they made to invest in infrastructure. All the vice-chancellors complain about that. Our core grant is way too low,” Schram adds.

Times Higher Education tried to contact the Office of Higher Education in Papua New Guinea for comment, but did not receive a response.

To be fair to the country’s government, Unitech is operating in a desperately poor country where four out of 10 children do not even attend primary school, according to the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

A mere 6.8 per cent of women above the age of 25 have at least a secondary level of education. For men, the proportion – 14.1 per cent – is higher, but hardly encouraging.

But as if all these challenges were not enough, in February last year, Schram says, events took a baffling twist for him.

Returning from Singapore on business, Schram was stopped at the airport in Papua New Guinea and told he would not be allowed into the country. A call to the prime minister’s office by an immigration official confirmed he was barred from entry, Schram says.

He was promptly deported to Brisbane. In March, he attempted to return again, and was again deported. In April, although he did manage to return briefly for a graduation ceremony, his visa was cancelled, and an application for a new one has so far been unsuccessful.

‘Fraud exposure’ said to be a factor

Schram says he has been given no official reason for his expulsion. However, he suspects that an investigation he carried out into Unitech’s infrastructure spending, which according to him “exposed fraud”, is connected to his deportation.
It has not been possible to verify Schram’s account, as the ministry did not answer THE’s questions.

Since then, there has been a struggle within Papua New Guinea over whether Schram should be allowed to return.

After his initial deportation, an investigation was launched by the university into accusations that Schram had falsified details on his CV. The vice-chancellor claims that the investigation found no evidence for the “silly and baseless” accusations.

Arore, who was charged with bribery and graft in March 2013, according to reports in The Australian, seems to have been a particular nemesis for Schram.

In a television interview broadcast last December, Arore directed the university to remove Schram from its payroll. (Schram confirms that he has continued to receive his salary throughout his exile, and he is still listed on the university’s website as vice-chancellor.)

Arore also said that Schram “has become a threat to the national security of this country…because of his presence in this country students are revolting”.

However, Schram has not been present in the country since April 2013, and a number of protests by Unitech students have been in favour of his reinstatement, not against it.

According to the university’s current chancellor, Sir Nagora Bogan, there was a “stand-off” between Schram and the former Unitech council.

This hostile council has now been replaced by the government to “help bring stability and restore governance and prudential controls”, says Bogan. The new council wants to ensure that Schram returns to the university, he tells THE.

Chances of return increased

With Arore no longer in charge of higher education, and the appointment this month of Delilah Gore as his replacement, Schram initially believed that his chances of return had increased.

However, on 13 March, after a number of pro-Schram protests by Unitech students over the previous month, Gore released a statement calling for students to return to their classes. If they did not, she said, a state of emergency would be declared on campus and the 2014 academic year would be cancelled.

After the resolution of legal proceedings around the Schram controversy, she said, the position of vice-chancellor at Unitech would be readvertised and open to all applicants, “including Albert Schram”.

But given that the university council still holds Schram to be the vice-chancellor, this announcement “flies in the face” of respect for “due process and the law”, Schram says.

If he does return, Schram believes that there are a number of reforms the government needs to make urgently, such as stopping “political interference and cronyism” in universities and “barring fly-by-night private universities” from entering the system.

“This is not hard to do: it requires adequate university management, and the political will of the government to carry out its agreed and published higher education policies,” he told Unitech students in an address at the beginning of the academic year in January.

But, in a telling illustration of the dysfunction of the country’s higher education system as clear as any of his arguments, Unitech’s vice-chancellor was obliged to address his students via YouTube from Australia, his exile still not at an end.

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Middle-class must lead a social revolution

March 21, 2014 7 comments

John Fowke

It is PNG’s middle-class – (the well-educated, salary-earners, professionals and tertiary students) – who by virtue of the clarity of their understanding of the dispossession of PNG’s citizenry, of the loss of basic rights and of equity in the common wealth of their lovely land, are not only qualified, but DUTY-BOUND to conceive and to lead a lawful social revolution to restore citizens’ rights and to foster honesty and a sense of duty everywhere.

The mass of the population, the villagers, the settlement-dwellers, these largely-illiterate or semi-literate people are ready-made victims for oppression by the exploitative bilakmasta class.. They MUST have the LEADERSHIP of people with a clarity of understanding of all the issues and of a path towards real reform. There are many people who are equipped to step in as groups based in their places of residence- perhaps as many as 200,000 people; those mentioned above as potential guides and leaders of a new society.
Dont hide behind words, you middle-class people, you salary-earners, professionals, technocrats, tertiary students.

There’s no way around it. Its your born duty and obligation to the nation which has made you a part of its educated, thinking,worldly-wise class. All that has to be done is something like what I will outline below, before signing off. Become active after some thought, and get together a few like-minded compatriots. With the emphasis on “..patriots.”

And stop putting it off endlessly – JUST DO IT!

All this mess is not PNG’s fault as a new nation. No. As a young man I was part of the biggest of Australias two major mistakes in its role as ruler of then TP&NG. I was a member of one of the teams which collected votes around the country in the first national election in 1964.

I was too immature to understand how dense, how incredibly blind, my big bosses at Konedobu, -and in Canberra at the Department of Territories- were to allow parliamentary representation to arise without full discussion and examination of all possible paths. How in a nation where land and what grows on it, and the bones of those buried in it, are the absolute basic bedrock from which social structure, culture, ethics, morality all arise..This was a society of small groups, each dependent upon and intensely defensive of its own resource of land, of rights to river, reef and island.

Here were no Barons whose landholdings and influence ran to Province-sized fiefdoms; here were no Manorial holdings comprising large acreages of prime farming land, here were no landowning Squires for whom landless share-farmers laboured all their lives, Here were no slaves bound to a Baron or a Lord for life. None of these. No; in 1964 TP&NG,, as ever, was an almost entirely egalitarian society with almost no tradition of hereditary class, hereditary privilege or poverty.Certainly a 99% classless self-governing society.

From day one the opposing interests of the Bullybeef Club – ( Pangu) – and the business sector and Missions allied with older and conservative village leaders – (Compass Pati, later National) – advanced and retreated, skirmishing as they solidified into opposing parties. That is how it all started. Parliament soon became an institution far from the understanding of the common citizen, remote, eventually becoming the object of derision and mistrust. This is no way for a modern, avowedly-democratic nation to be

So stupid, then, to allow a facsimile of the British Westminster party-based system to arise in the first House when none of the conditions which the party-system grew to meet in a heavily-class-ridden kingdom over several centuries in Britain. These conditions never existed in TP&NG. This is the source of most of PNG’s present-day unfairness and discontent. By their stupidity the Australians caused an isolated, selfish, greedy political class to establish itself in self-constructed, exclusive “clubs”. This most un-Melanesian ruling-class have established deep roots in this hitherto free, avowedly democratic if often unruly society..

Especially stupid when 100 or more LLGs – (then LGCs) – being grass-roots-based political institutions were well-established and well-understood throughout the land. The LGCs of today -and now there are many, many more of them, still remain as the basic, grass-roots building blocks for grass-roots control of their nation and its resources and its state institutions.

Then as now, parties possessed little of principle, little member-loyalty, and
great personal, selfish ambition. There is no connection between the electorate 
and the elected.

This has to change if you are to fulfil the promise embodied in your lovely
land and your constitution and your aspirations.

Get together with some others, like-minded, and prepare the way for your own Ward Councillor to suggest in a meeting that your current MP be asked to make a formal agreement to appear regularly at the Council’s meetings, to act upon reasonable requests pertaining to the welfare of the council’s constituency- being a large part of his own- and to bring his District Development funding to bear on reasonable and duly budgeted physical infrastructural needs. The MP should also take on the improvement of all National and Provincial services in the council area by liaison with provincial and Waigani-based officials and with the PM’s Department if necessary.

In return the Council should agree that depending upon performance, the MP would have the full support of the LLG constituency in the next national election. Such an agreement would be constitutional and might be accomplished peacefully with great benefit on all sides.

Lawful, transparent and productive of a much more settled, equitable and peaceful social environment if successfully publicised and acted upon. If in doubt, dig out the records of the Public Sector Reform Advisory Group presided over by the late Sir Barry Holloway until his death two years ago. This group of idealistic and well-qualified PNG professionals began work in 2002 and built up a number of excellent policy-papers for parliamentary consideration. Policies which encompassed aspects of my own suggestion above. Whilst parliament did nothing with these the records and most of the people concerned are still available for you to consult. Perhaps you may take some of their insights and ideas to incorporate in a set of steps you yourselves, you middle-class professionals and students, decide upon. This is not brand new territory, I assure you. Go to it.

Good luck.

Bradshaw denies Union allegations over PNG Power leadership

March 18, 2014 5 comments

Robert G Bradshaw

Please note that my conscience is clear on the matter – Unions allege Bradshaw has vested interest in Tangit suspension at PNG Power.

The Management of PPL recommended that Pacific Assurance Group Ltd (PAG) be awarded the contract. The recommendation was made by Mr Luke Ambu, General Manager, Human Resources. The recommendation was endorsed by the Executive Management Team (EMT) of PPL. Mr John Tangit, the suspended CEO of PPL is a member of the EMT.

The EMT then presented the matter to the Board for decision. When the matter was brought before the Board, I declared my interest in the matter (i.e., that I am a member of the PAG Board) and stepped out of the Board meeting.

The Board, after considering the EMT recommendation, awarded the contract to PAG.

At the time the Board made the above decision, I was a Director (not Acting Chairman). The Chairman of the Board was Mr Joshua Bakirie.

I strenuously deny the allegations made by you.

My challenge to you and others making these allegations: if you believe that I have abused my position as a Director of PPL Board, refer me to the Ombudsman Commission or the Police Fraud Squad.

It is easy for faceless people to make damaging, defamatory allegations against others on the internet. It takes real people, of integrity and standing, to do the right thing: shut up and dont make damaging and defamatory allegations or refer the matter to appropriate authorities to deal with (such as the Ombudsman Commission or the Fraud Squad)

Unions allege Bradshaw has vested interest in Tangit suspension at PNG Power

March 17, 2014 2 comments

Elmo Aspenn

The PNG Energy Workers Association and the Public Employees Association (Unions) have accused the acting PNG Power Limited (PPL) Board Chairman Mr Robert Bradshaw for orchestrating the suspension of the PPL CEO Mr John Tangit in order to enhance his vested interests in PPL.

Acting PPL Board Chairman Mr Robert Bradshaw forced the PPL Board to give Life Assurance contract to Pacific Assurance Group for which Mr Robert Bradshaw is a director of. This is in spite of the fact that there is an existing Life Assurance service provider for PPL employees.

When the CEO Mr John Tangit refused to sign payment requisition of K1.4 million to Pacific Assurance Group, the Acting PPL Board Chairman Mr Robert Bradshaw used the DISGUISE of other allegations to suspend him.

Upon the PPL Board appointment of the a/CEO Mr Branden Raftery (now terminated) the acting Chairman for PPL Mr Robert Bradshaw IMMEDIATELY directed the a/CEO Branden Raftery to commence facilitating payment to Pacific Assurance Group.

Contrary to the IPBC Act the Acting Chairman Robert Bradshaw USURPED powers unto himself as Executive Chairman in violation of existing legal provisions.

The Acting PPL Board Chairman Robert Bradshaw has seriously compromised himself and therefore is not a fit and proper person to be in the position of Board Member and Acting PPL Board Chairman.

UNITECH investigation finds criminal negligence in management of funds

March 12, 2014 4 comments

A official investigation at the University of Technology into the management of Public Investment Programme funds has found serious instances of mismanagement and criminal negligence involving senior staff and a former Vice Chancellor.

In a Report [Unitech Sengi Report], dated September 2012, the Expenditure Investigations Committee found the following staff had”seriously breached their Terms of Contract”:

  •  Professor Narayan Gehlot – “guilty of disgraceful or improper conduct”, “inefficient or incompetent” and “negligent in the discharge of his duties” “for personal advantage and gain”.
  •  Bursar Mr Jimmy Imbok – “criminally negligent” and “negligent or careless in the discharge of his duties”
  •  University Planner Mr Brian Kakini – “criminally negligent”, acted “maliciously or deliberately in a discriminatory manner”, was “negligent or careless in the discharge of his duties”, was “inefficient or incompetent” and acted “for personal advantage and gain”.

In addition the “former Vice Chancellor” was involved “in the improper awarding of contracts amounting to abuse of proper process”. He “ignored proper and due processes and was in gross violation”. “There was deliberate gross abuse of proper and legal procedures”.

Peter O’Steal Strikes Again! – allegations USD$1.2 billion loan is corrupt

March 10, 2014 16 comments

Dr Patrick Onguglo

The Prime Minister Peter O’Neill (‘aka O’Steal) has personally and unilaterally directed that the State of PNG borrow US$1.2 Billion Dollars through international financiers syndicated by the Swiss UBS Bank, to buy 10% of Oil Search Limited (OSL) shares. It is believed this transaction is motivated by personal gain. Therefore, this loan is believed to be for a corrupt outcome. This corruption is perpetrated by UBS and other international banks lending the money.

PNG does not need the loan. It is Peter O’Neill who needs the loan for his own corrupt gain. He is using the country’s assets to obtain a personal benefit. This must be made very clear to the international lenders. On this basis no future PNG Government will be liable to repay the funds, lent for an illegal purpose.

As of this article the international lenders will be deemed to be aware of the allegations I make here.( I invite the Prime Minister to contradict me if he can).

This is not an ordinary share purchase (investment) made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the people of PNG. What I am about to reveal is only known to a few key people in government circles.

In 2013 Total, the French Petroleum conglomerate entered into a deal with InterOil Limited wherein it purchased 60% stock in InterOil with the intention to develop the Gulf/Elk-Antelope LNG Project. Total bench marked the price of the InterOil shares against the known oil and gas reserves of InterOil’s Gulf/Elk LNG reserves, and international price indicators.

InterOil was started by two men in this country, Phil Mulacek and Gayland Baker in early 1990s. These two men, one a Texan and the other from California walked into Port Moresby government offices with empty brief cases promising to build an Oil Refinery in PNG out of one abandoned by Chevron in Alaska. While Curtain Brothers offered the Motukea refinery, these two men with very slick marketing skills, and Gayland Baker’s position as a director of conservative Fuller Christian Seminary, gained the upper hand.

The rest is history, of the way they manipulated government decision making processes, public announcements, to gain every benefit, favour, approval, license and a free lift up in every other step of that company’s development.

InterOil today is testimony to how Phil Mulacek has carefully and deliberately manipulated the goodness of the people of PNG and their government, how he has ruthlessly and unscrupulously exploited the weaknesses of key leaders of PNG, to build a personal fortune worth several hundred Million Dollars for himself and his extended family. Mulacek has been ably assisted by Christian Vincent, the Frenchman, his brother-in-law who acts as Phil’s main go-to man who has also gained in the hundreds of Millions.

In a small town things can get a bit incestuous, as Christian Vincent’s long term girlfriend in PNG happens to be the Fijian-Indian Lady with the short skirt who is the CEO for Peter O’Neill insurance company. Peter O’Neill is no stranger to Vincent and Mulacek having had many private dinners and meetings over the years when Mr O’Neill was a Minister in the Somare Cabinet.

Having sold 60% of InterOil to the French Company for several hundred Million dollars, Mulacek and co have been holding out the balance of the shares of 40% for a price that is almost triple what the French have paid for per share previously. The French having pre-emptive rights could not pay the price that the Mulacek camp has been asking for the balance of the shares. Meanwhile the Gulf-Elk LNG Project is not going anywhere fast.

The Mulacek camp have been trying to play Total against Exxon and Oil Search Ltd, who both also expressed interest in a piece of the action. Mulacek had hoped Total would pay the price to own the whole lot or Exxon would pay a premium to participate. No one took the bait. Over the years people have become tired and weary of Mulacek and his antics, always trying to profiteer and gain unreasonably, when he came to PNG with nothing. The InterOil project could have been fully financial 5 years ago had Mulacek not been greedy and held out.

This game has developed into a stalemate with Total holding majority stock and cant fund the project until it took the rest of the stock. It required a game breaker.

This is where the creative genius of Phil Mulacek came to the fore once again, and perhaps for the last time against the people of PNG. He approached Peter O’Neill through the lady with the short skirt for a private meeting. In that meeting it was laid out to ONeill that someone should assist Oil Search Limited (who has expressed interest ) to buy the balance of the 40% shares in Interoil for the exorbitant price that even Total would not pay. That Oil Search Limited had already been sounded out on this, and provided someone funded OilSearch Limited for the price of the Interoil Shares they would do the deal to further fortify them against any corporate raid. The State of PNG taking the shares would surely be a poison pill for the Dubai based Arabs seeking to do a raid on OilSearch Limited. The aggregate agreed price for 40% InterOil shares and OilSearch 10% shares was in the vicinity of USD1.0 Billion with enough fat to go around.

What was put to O’Neill in that meeting was that if he could get the Government of PNG to borrow USD$1.2 Billion from international commercial lenders, and buy 10% of Oilsearch Limited shares, Oilsearch Limited would use the proceeds definitely to buy the 40% shares from Interoil at its ridiculous asking price, AND THERE WOULD BE A VERY TIDY KICK BACK OF USD$100 MILLION FROM MULACEK & CO TO ONEILL for making this happen.

This was the game breaker. O’Neill became the game breaker. He became Peter O’Steal.

Having shook hands on the deal in last quarter of 2013, Phil Mulacek has been working feverishly with Peter Botten of Oil Search Limited, to get international lenders to lend to the State this huge sum of money, while Peter O’Neill has been carefully moving the right people into right places to take the decisions for him, and to cover his arse in the State agencies. The last act was to move the Minister for Petroleum William Duma aside and put his own man Duban in place to approve the deal. O’Neill knew Duma would see through the deal as unfair, unreasonable and corrupt and not approve it.

Last week Peter O’Neill has had lawyers and Financiers and bankers camping all over town feverishly working to finalize the deal. The only Minister working closely with O’Neill to close the deal is Ben Micah, who will support O’Neill because he needs ONeill to turn a blind eye to his own stealing.

Most of the Members of Parliament in the Government side do not know about this very juicy and lucrative deal that is going down just this week.

In fact most of the Cabinet Ministers do not even know. The Opposition does not have the manpower or the resources to keep up with Peter O’Steall’s very active life of carrying on private business deals while pretending to be Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Only a few people close to him only know some of the deals, but not all.

This Prime Minister has made more money using his position as Prime Minister of this country than any other leader in the history of this country, and that folks, is the understatement of the Century. Nothing over K10 Million passes the Tenders Board, for example, without the Prime Minister getting a look in first. His fingers are so sticky that it is now common knowledge among all his Coalition Party colleagues that this man is not good for PNG.

Papua New Guineans need to ask, and ascertain very clearly that:

1. The State does not need the 10% of OilSearch Limited Shares. Oilsearch Limited is a public company. It can bloody well raise its own money and buy the shares. When Peter Botten was first approached to buy the Interoil shares he baulked at the sale price as he knew what Total paid. Interoil was asking far too much. When he was again approached with State Offer, he realized it would be a poison pill to have the State to hold substantial shares in OilSearch, so he happily agreed. Oilsearch quickly overpriced its batch of 10% shares and was also gaining from the sale of the shares to the State. Everybody gains from the State.

2. The Deal and the Loan is not in the best commercial or financial interests of PNG and its economy. The Country has already pledged its assets, including the previous Oilsearch Shares (18%), to the Dubai based financiers of our LNG interests. Why borrow more to get into debt with Swiss Banks this time and park the interest encumbered (shares) in the same commercial entity (Oilsearch) that the Dubai lenders already have priority in call over? Putting all our LNG eggs (revenue stream) in one basket is not a wise move.

3. Why didn’t Peter O’Neill opt to use the money to allow the State to exercise its option to acquire 22.5% of the Gulf Elk LNG Project?

4. Why is Peter O’Neill helping to protect OilSearch which is a public company- unless there is a catch?

5. Has Peter O’Neill relied on a fair and commercial valuation of the shares of Oil Search Limited to justify the price, despite the prevailing share price? Where is the professional valuation?

6. Why is Peter O’Neill borrowing USD1.2 Billion to fund shares when the money can be best spent on health and education and infrastructure?

7. How can the PNG economy which is already burdened by debt and currently underpinned by 2 consecutive years of massive budget deficits afford to shoulder this huge debt burden? Why has Peter O’Neill further mortgaged our future?

8. Why has Peter O’Neill further exposed the PNG economy to the LNG Project. All the hopes of the politicians are on the LNG Project. This is a huge and monumental gamble; particularly because the State has failed to honour its agreements with the Landowners, and the State ( Arthur Somare) has failed to explain what happened to the 3% of the State’s 22.5% in the PNG LNG Project. What happened to the 3%? Mr ONeill was Finance Minister. He knows what happened to the 3% in the Dubai deal. Perhaps he can explain? The Landowners will not allow leaders to trick and mislead them anymore. They are wiser by the day.

9. Why didn’t Peter O’Neill allow the USD1.2 Billion to be borrowed by Kumul Holdings or National Petroleum Company or even the IPBC, for it to buy outright the shares of Interoil? Why gift Oil Search Limited this money at the expense of the people of PNG? Why does OilSearch have to own the InterOil Shares (thereby the Gulf-ELK LNG Project) when the State could easily acquire it and own it- and not for that price!

10. What is the underlying rationale and underlying value in the exorbitant price (of the loan) of the InterOil Shares? Who has done independent industry benchmarked valuations based on which Peter O’Neill has agreed with Mulacek to do this deal?

11. What is the nature of the Mulacek-O’Neill kickback and how was it designed to be delivered?

12. Is it true this major investment decision worth approximately K4 Billion was made by one man, Peter O’Neill, without Cabinet or Parliamentary approval or debate? If so then it is clearly an abuse of the office of the PM, and he should be referred to the Ombudsman for investigation.

There are many things absolutely and seriously wrong with this investment decision. The Prime Minister has no power to unilaterally commit this country like he has done with Manus Asylum seekers etc. It has become abuse of power. He has become dictatorial.

O’Neill is currently getting government agencies and Departments to approve this transaction for which even the Finance & Treasury officials and the Bank of PNG have not done any formal prior appraisal of this loan. He is trying to rail road the proper government agencies to approve this transaction, when they haven’t even done any proper evaluation of this loan against the country’s other commitments and debt levels.

I call on Ministers of Cabinet, Government Coalition Partners and Leaders to demand full briefing on this transaction, and all documentation on this transaction be tabled in Cabinet and Parliament for public scrutiny. I call on the Cabinet Ministers and coalition partners to block this stupid loan.

I call on Senior Ministers to feel sorry for this country and its people, to take their oaths to serve the people seriously. I call on responsible Ministers to stand firm and not endorse this deal even it means their sacking. It is time for principled leaders to stand up to this PM and his greed.

Already the PM has set it all up so that he does not sign any documents himself. He is using quiet pressure through other people including, once again Ministers Marabe, Polye, Micah and Duban to sign and endorse this deal that Parliament and Cabinet did not approve. Even if Cabinet approved it, it seems they would have been mis-informed. When the shit hits the fan, the PM will naturally go after these Ministers and once again, blame them, as he did with the Paraka deal.

This is a stupid deal, designed to benefit a few greedy and selfish people. IT MUST BE STOPPED!
The Prime Minister needs to declare his interest in this matter publicly and resign. He has taken far too much from this country and the small people. He has to learn that enough is enough!

Legal conspiracy abuses the law and process to defeat landowner injunction in Ok Tedi mining case

March 7, 2014 4 comments

Ok Tedi mine waste spewing into the Fly river [ Photo: ABC]

Ok Tedi mine waste spewing into the Fly river [ Photo: ABC]

Last Friday Justice Hartshorn handed down a bizarre decision in the National Court that has legal commentators, academics and practitioners scratching their heads and wondering what is going on with PNG’s legal system.

Justice Hartshorn, operating apparently in cahoots with the Attorney General Kerenga Kua and international law firm Allens, has managed to turn upside down a whole series of legal precedents, practices and rules to defeat an injunction obtained by Western Province landowners to stop the continued pollution of the Fly river by Ok Tedi Mining Limited.

While the judges ultimate decision, that the interim ex parte injunction should be lifted, may, ironically be correct, the method by which he took possession of the matter, his erroneous legal reasoning and his bulldozing of established legal principles leave a big stink hanging over his name and the lawyers who seemingly conspired with him to cook the process.

Here is a quick list of what Justice Hartshorn got wrong and how he manipulated the situation to deliver what was clearly a pre-determined outcome:

  1. It is unprecedented for the National Court  to stay its own orders, and particularly one judge has no power to stay the orders of another judge. If a party wants a stay then it should appeal the original decision to the Supreme court.
  2. Hartshorn has seized on the power of the National court to issue a stay on proceedings and completely misinterpreted / abused that power to pretend it gives a right to stay an order.
  3. Hartshorn also relied on Supreme Court decisions and authorities that only apply in the Supreme court and which do not apply in the National court
  4. The original injunction was made ex-parte and given a return date to be argued inter partes. The simple and correct procedure was for any variation in the order to made at that inter parties hearing. Instead Hartshorn has grabbed control of the case and made his own orders without any legal precedent.
  5. In order to get the matter into his Court Hartshorn had to first make another erroneous decision. He ruled that the matter was a commercial matter and therefore could be transferred to his court. But the case is clearly not a commercial case in the legal sense as it is a case brought by the landowners over environmental damage and the dumping of poisons tailings into the Fly river.
  6. Hartshorn heard the case and made his decision without the mining company – the central player in the litigation – even being present or having any legal representation! The company had only just been served with a notice of the proceedings but Hartshorn refused to adjourn the matter to allow them to be present and heard.

To compound this litany of abuse, Allens, the legal firm instructed by Kua to appear for the State of Papua New Guinea, are also the long servicing legal representatives for Ok Tedi Mining Limited – putting them in a gross conflict of interest situation where they are acting for the regulator in a case brought by the landowners for gross environmental damage caused by another of their clients.

Even worse, there is other litigation currently before the courts in Port Moresby where Allens are acting for Ok Tedi Mining Limited in a matter instigated by the company AGAINST the Minister for Mining, the Minister for Finance and the State.

Clearly these big international lawyers have no conscience or appreciation of common legal ethics… but at the end of the day in this sorry drama it is the poor people of Western Province who continue to suffer while the fat cats in their air conditioned city offices count their ill-gotten gains.