Home > Corruption, Human rights, Land, Papua New Guinea > Australian run company given black eye by Paga Hill community

Australian run company given black eye by Paga Hill community

They have been shot at, had their houses bulldozed, been beaten up by police, and threatened by private security guards and armed thugs – but still the community at Paga Hill continue their struggle against the Australian run Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC). And on 1 July they achieved a significant victory.

The Supreme Court has ruled [see judgement below] that lower Paga – a community whose origins extend back into the 1960s – sits on reclaimed land, outside a state lease (portion 1597) which the current developer, according to the Public Accounts Committee, obtained through ‘corrupt dealings’.

Lower Paga entered the national stage back in May 2012 when police helped bulldoze properties on the harbour  foreshore, leaving hundreds homeless. The developer’s Australian CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, told the Australian press that the community were merely ‘squatters and settlers and criminals’.

Police open fire on unarmed civilians during Paga Hill forced evictions

Police open fire on unarmed civilians during Paga Hill forced evictions in May 2012

Now questions must be raised over how the company managed to jointly organise a demolition – they have confessed to hiring the bulldozing equipment – buttressed by heavily armed police, on land lying outside their state lease.

The company is trying to spin their gutting Supreme Court loss as a victory. On 1 July PHDC posted on their facebook page, ‘Supreme Court delivers judgement – PHDC granted vacant possession, upholding previous National Court decision’.

Then comes the all important caveat: ‘Area with SDA church deemed to reside on a separate deemed on separate title and within path of ring road. PHDC encourage NCDC and Curtain Bros to pursue a comprehensive resettlement solution’.

And sure enough the same words, almost verbatim, appear in the Post-Courier a day later. Yet no sub-editor stopped to ask why a SDA Church would need to be ‘resettled’! Odd indeed.

Had they bothered to ask a near obvious question they would have discovered that the reclaimed land outside the lease also includes a large swathe of the community, encompassing hundreds of families; right where PHDC’s much vaunted marina is evidently going to be pitched, alongside its assortment of ‘luxury’ facilities (somehow intersecting with a busy four-lane ring road?).

Of course, the Post-Courier is not known for checking corporate press releases before publishing them as news. Had they given the court order even a cursory glance they would see it is the Paga Hill community who are the victors, their leader Joe Moses vindicated after a two year legal struggle, punctuated with police intimidation.

The Supreme Court victory is the first tentative step towards justice for Paga Hill – serious questions remain over how the developer has managed to maintain its grip on a 99 year state lease over Portion 1597, which encompasses a former national park, despite serious evidence of illegality which has been documented in a report tabled before parliament.

It is also time that the government took stock of its lawful responsibilities, and investigate the CEO of Paga Hill Development Company, who has run companies censured in numerous Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee report, in addition to media and human rights investigations. For example:

  • In 1996 the national government paid Fridriksson K2.5 million for Destination Papua New Guinea, a book (yes K2.5 million for a book!) riddled with what Sean Dorney calls ‘appalling mistakes’. To secure payment, Dorney claims Fridriksson offered a Finance Department officer a cut of the payment.
  • The Auditor General alleges CCS Anvil – a company owned by Fridriksson and Paga Hill Development Company shareholder George Hallitt – wrongfully seized K1,966,677 from the sale of deceased PNG estates, when advising the Public Curators Office (CCS Anvil has acted as Paga Hill Development Company’s ‘project director’).
  • According to the Auditor General K4,872,375 in ‘unlawful’ payments were made to CCS Anvil by the Public Curators Office.
  • K79,500 in unlawful payments  – according to the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee – were made by the East Sepik Provincial government made to CCS Anvil
  • K375,799 in alleged unlawful payments were made by the Parliamentary Service to CCS Anvil (documented by the Public Accounts Committee)

Paga Hill Court Order 1 July 2014

Paga Hill Court Order 1 July 2014 p2

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  1. sori stret PNG
    July 12, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Our local newspapers dont even bother verifying facts before publishing them. No wonder the truth always gets misconstrued

  2. July 16, 2014 at 5:52 am

    More crap by that no-good con artist kristian lasslett

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