Home > Corruption, Human rights, Land, Papua New Guinea > UK Human Rights body condemns further demolition at Paga Hill

UK Human Rights body condemns further demolition at Paga Hill

International State Crime Initiative

22 July 2014 following Demolition

Residents standing among their scattered possessions and destroyed homes

British human rights research centre, the International State Crime Initiative, has condemned the demolition exercise at Paga Hill on Tuesday.

According to local residents over twenty homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds homeless, in a demolition exercise that was organised by the National Capital Distinct Commission (NCDC), with the aid of heavily armed police officers.

Also demolished during the exercise was a Seven Day Adventist Church, and historic WWII relics.

‘It is extraordinary, these people have endured so much, they have been bashed, terrorised, and intimidated by police, over a period of two years, now this’, ISCI’s Dr Kristian Lasslett observes.

‘This demolition is in clear violation of the UN guidance on development induced evictions and deserves to be condemned as such’.

Dr Lasslett also notes:

‘on the 2nd of July Paga Hill residents won their appeal in the Supreme Court, declaring they were exempt from an eviction order obtained by the Paga Hill Development Company. At the moment it is entirely unclear what legal authority the NCDC were acting under and whether it is in contravention of the Supreme Court order – but what we do know is that residents took every step to alert the NCDC and police to the Supreme Court order’.

Dr Lasslett continues:

‘at the very minimum the community would require 45 days notice, and a relocation strategy that clearly meets a number of basic human rights standards. And, of course, then there is the issue of the sacred cultural site and historical artefacts, which were destroyed during Tuesday’s demolition exercise’.

Dr Lasslett adds:

‘it shouldn’t be forgotten that the NCDC has conducted this demolition only after the community’s leader, Joe Moses, was forced into hiding when NCD police launched a man hunt against him, under what appears to be spurious charges’.

In response to the demolition, the International State Crime Initiative has produced an open letter signed by leading global human rights scholars, and PNG NGOs, calling on the national government to launch an independent inquiry into the Paga Hill episode.

The letter also raises questions over the current luxury real estate project being developed by the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC). It notes:

‘PHDC’s CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, has run companies censured in four major government investigations in Papua New Guinea, which are catalogued in two Auditor General’s Office reports and four Public Accounts Committee reports. Allegations include obtaining illegal consultancy contracts, corruption, the wrongful certifying of government payments, unaccounted funds, and excessive fees, which have evidently netted the companies concerned many millions of Kina’.

According to Dr Lasslett, ‘the case of Paga Hill is emblematic of a broader trend, where local communities are facing forced evictions, implemented through violence, by actors whom have often obtained the land through land transactions with a question mark over them’.

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  1. Justice Mark Sevua Rtd., CBE MStJ
    July 25, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    I released a Press Statement yesterday to the local newspapers but it wasnt published in today’s newspapers. I condemned the inhuman and unconstitutional demolition of our church building and the Settlers’ shelters without any human consideration at all. I called for the NCD Governor who was once described as a human rights lawyer to compensate the church and the Settlers for this unconstitutional act. I also called on Police Commissioner and his Dep Comm Ops to stop their armed thugs policemen from harassing, intimidating and threatening ordinary citizens. I have spoken to the lawyer acting for the Settlers to file contempt of court proceedings against PHDC, NCDC,Curtain Bros and Police. These institutions of State and the companies involved must be held accountable for their actions which are not authorised by the country’s Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

    I have volunteered to assist the Settlers and their lawyer seek justice.

    • July 26, 2014 at 10:35 am

      Thank you for the information. Could you post the full text of your Press Statement?

      • Will Self
        July 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

        Judge,

        You would be far better advised to bring your influence to the six Government Home Purchase Schemes. 11,000 properties in the last 40 years were sold and between 140 – 720 have been transferred. Thousands of citizens have paid off their contractual obligations only to be cheated out of their properties. Lands refuse to transfer but issue fraudulent titles and evict the true owners or their heirs, widows or children. This is absolutely disgraceful. The NHC has lost almost all records and no one has any idea of the state of the Schemes.

  2. Kristian Lasslett
    July 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    I can only echo the poignant remarks of Justice Sevua. The community at Paga Hill have demonstrated a remarkable respect for the laws of PNG. Residents have only ever sort to defend themselves through the laws of the country, and to that end succeeded after a two year struggle. When police illegally attacked and demolished buildings (on numerous occasions), residents have sat in peaceful condemnation; never once lashing out, despite being punched, shot at, and cut with bush knives. Extraordinary restraint under the circumstances.

    And yet those organisations vying to displace them have demonstrated disrespect for the laws of PNG, and an overarching belief their impunity is assured. The conduct of the police and NCDC has been abrupt and brutal; while the CEO of the developer behind the Paga Hill Estate, has a truly prolific status in PNG’s anti corruption reporting, a fact that has never once been mentioned in the Post-Courier, EMTV, or the National (despite the reports being tabled in parliament and a matter of public record).

    And yet while you have 3000 residents who have shown unshakable respect for the law, and have always acted through lawful mechanisms to defend their housing rights, they have been treated brutality, with impunity, by those who have both flouted human rights norms and according to the public accounts committee, the land laws of PNG.

    Sadly, though, the considered critiques of this whole process of dispossession and demolition the community has endured on and off over two years, produced by a range of juridical and scholarly authorities, never finds its way into the national press. Yet, gushing articles that celebrate the developer’s humanitarian spirit, get printed frequently.

    Paga Hill is arguably the most overt example of the democratic deficit in PNG at the moment, which leaves ordinary citizens vulnerable to displacement and violence, while the powerful and wealthy, who very often are not even PNG citizens, enjoy impunity.

  3. Will Self
    July 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

    What’s wrong with you people? Can’t you read? Everyone has avoided the real issue identified by the PAC. The State Lease was and is fraudulent and of no force and effect. It never was legitimate. All that followed was illegal. Renewal and transfer of a non-existent right transfers nothing. Yet everyone has ignored this most basic fact. Carol Kidu was told, the Museum was told before it litigated and lost, the settlers were told before they litigated and lost and the PAC made dozens of referrals for prosecution but everyone ignored it.

    The entire process was corrupt. Land Rent was never paid yet the land was not reclaimed. The UDL was illegal. These matters should have been the basis of litigation yet never were.

    Now Nali and O’Neil are involved the root illegality is of no importance apparently. How can a private dealing by dubious “developers” who could not even pay the Land Rental possibly be a Project of National Importance? Romilly Kila Pat gave relief from payment of Land Rental – which he had no power to do.

    Friedrickson tried to sell half the company to the Western Province Landowners for K 50 million! Danaya put paid to that. Next the Hilton Hotel was to build there. On inquiry to the Hilton, it was learned that they had never heard of the Paga Hill Co. or the land and had no intention at all of being involved.

    Why has no one tested the legitimacy of the Lease?

  4. Justice Mark Sevua Rtd., CBE MStJ
    July 28, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    That is a very good question. The appropriate body, in my view would have been the National Museum which has not done anything except to write letters and not do anything at all. Now the Director is screaming but where has been all these time? Instead of running to court to challenge the legality of the lease to PHDC, he did nothing except write letters and then when he receive no response, he went to sleep and let the sleeping dog lie! The bucks stop with him and he can do something. Why has gone so quiet???? His failure to protect the war relics at Paga Hill directly encourages PHDC to proceed as if no questions have been raised about this issue and the principal who is obviously been acting with impunity, appears to be untouchable by the authorities, Why??? So we continue to sing and dance to the music of corruption ???

    Mark JS Sevua
    Retired Judge.

    • Will Self
      July 30, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      The Museum did commence litigation on the basis that the development could be stopped because the Museum had a right to preserve war relics. This mad idea was apparently sold to them by their lawyer. The Museum management was told that the State Lease was void ab initio and fraudulent – as was the UDL transfer and renewal – but ignored the advice and consequently failed to get anywhere. The Courts simply hosed their ridiculous claim out the door. How obvious does it have to be? The lawyers do not even have to do anything – the entire detailed history of the dealing is in the PAC Report. The State Lease is VOID. The process leading to the State Lease was CORRUPT. The Lease was FRAUDULENT. Hello, anyone out there? Land Rental was never paid -. The loss to the State was huge. The Lease should have been cancelled for breach of development covenants and failure to pay Land Rent. yet nothing has been done.

      Amazingly, the Police Legacy had a building on the land and have lost it. What was the opinion of the widows and orphans? The Secretary of the Legacy Fund was Ila Geno. He was told about this and did nothing. The loss to the fund must be very significant, yet the Trustees could not be bothered doing anything.

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