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UNDP head denies endorsing Paga Hill Development Company evictions

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Settlers moved from the foreshore at Paga Hill to the inland site of Gerehu, where they live in appalling conditions.  Photo: Aid Watch

Port Moresby settlers evicted to make way for Australian-backed development ‘abandoned’

Source: Heath Aston in Sydney Morning Herald

A majority of settlers evicted from a headland shanty town in Port Moresby to make way for a gated tourism and casino precinct backed by Australian property developers have been “simply abandoned”, with some now sleeping rough, according to human rights investigators.

Two Australian-run companies involved in moving squatters from waterfront Paga Hill and its foreshore between 2012 and 2014 dispute the numbers of people affected, but charities Aid Watch and Jubilee Australia claim 2000 of an estimated 3000 squatters were given no resettlement and in many cases no compensation, and up to 500 of those could be living on the streets of the capital.

They have also raised questions about the claimed success of resettlement programs for those relocated to make way for a gated waterfront estate that the PNG government has earmarked as a likely setting for the 2018 APEC conference of world leaders.

Australia is spending about $100 million to support the Port Moresby APEC summit, with a particular focus on security through the ongoing presence of the Australian Federal Police in PNG.

The brochure for the Paga Hill development showing the headland that has been cleared for development. Photo: Paga Hill Development Company

Former prime minister Tony Abbott said APEC would be “an important coming of age for PNG”.

Australian mining company Oil Search is building a floating reception centre to be called APEC Haus at the Paga Hill headland.

Human rights lawyer Brynn O’Brien, who is writing a report for Jubilee and Aid Watch, said Australia had a responsibility to the people of Paga Hill if it was backing the APEC meeting with public money.

“The Australian government should make a commitment not to support any event held on land associated with human rights violations until people have been resettled,” she told Fairfax Media.

Six Mile, another site were people were moved to. Photo: Aid Watch

“The majority of people were simply abandoned and a significant proportion of those, perhaps a quarter, are living under bridges, under buildings.”

The evictions, conducted with the support of armed PNG police, were raised at a recent senate estimates hearing where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Pacific division, Daniel Sloper, said it was not Australia’s responsibility.

Another humpy at Gerehu. Photo: Aid Watch

“Certainly there have been areas and villages that have moved on. I am not denying that at all,” he said.

“My only point was that was a responsibility of the PNG government rather than a responsibility of the Australian government.”

Paga Hill was once the focal point of Australia’s World War II defence of Port Moresby. The thousands of settlers who moved there in the decades after 1945 became known as “bunker people” for their use of abandoned wartime fortifications to create makeshift homes.

The Paga Hill Development Company is run by Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur “Gummi” Fridriksson, a former chief executive of Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute.

Last year Fairfax Media revealed a legal wrangle in which one PNG’s most revered former politicians, Carol Kidu, and the Paga Hill Development Company sought to block the release of an Australian documentary, The Opposition, about local resistance to the evictions.

Ms O’Brien interviewed people who were moved from the foreshore by Townsville-based civil contractors Curtain Bros, with the support of PNG’s National Capital District Commission to an area called Gerehu on the outskirts of Port Moresby.

She found at least 600 people living in homes made from “pieces of wood, sticks, fibro, sheet metal, tarpaulins” and without power or running water.

“At Gerehu lots of the adults and children are noticeably thin even by PNG standards, they appear malnourished. At Paga Hill their main source of protein was fish caught from the sea but this site is inland with no reliable public transport” she said.

Curtain Bros did not return calls.

At another resettlement site, known as Six Mile, the original facilities built by PHDC in 2014 are badly run down. The company offered resettlement of cash compensation for people living on the hill rather than those living on the foreshore and in other areas.

Of the estimated 400 people at Six Mile, according to Ms O’Brien, most remain in temporary accommodation – tents under a steel shed roof – because they can’t afford to enter into the “land use agreements” that were offered.

A Paga Hill Development Company spokesman said:

“PHDC cannot be held responsible for the relocation site almost three years after it was formally handed over in October 2014 to UN acclaim.”

The UN’s support for the project is in dispute.

Roy Trivedy, the United Nations’ resident co-ordinator in PNG, said he attended one meeting where he was impressed with written plans for the resettlement but has not been involved in anything to do with Paga Hill since.

“I’ve asked the company to stop using my name to endorse something I haven’t seen,” he said.

Is UK firm Adam Smith International profiting at the expense of PNG?

April 11, 2016 1 comment
Who is ASI working for when it writes laws and policies in PNG - the people of PNG or its foreign paymasters? And how much do it's staff and owners benefit personally?

Who is ASI working for when it writes laws and policies in PNG – the people of PNG or its foreign paymasters? And how much do it’s staff and owners benefit personally?

A new report [pdf file] published by Aid Watch (UK) and Global Justice Now lifts the lid on the British based aid- entrepreneur, Adam Smith International (ASI).

ASI is no stranger to Papua New Guinea. With funding from the World Bank and the Australian government’s aid programme it has drafted controversial new mining laws [pdf file] in Bougainville, that deny landowners fundamental human rights. It is also strongly involved in advising the O’Neill government on extractive sector policy, in addition to transport, infrastructure and public administration.

Following an investigation into foreign aid contracts won by ASI in the UK, the Aid Watch report claims ASI’s work is cloaked in financial secrecy, big corporate profits and fat pay cheques for its executives.

The report observes, ‘despite the government’s repeated transparency pledges, it remains difficult to get a full picture and a detailed breakdown of how funds are actually spent’. As a result, ‘it is unclear how much of a certain contract will be consumed by transport and accommodation for ASI consultants, for example, or how much the company will pocket in fees and administration costs’.

However, it is noted, ‘a look at the company’s financial statements … show just how lucrative the “aid industry” has been for it. In 2014 ASI reported revenues exceeding £110m – up more than 20% from £90m in 2013, and 50% from 2012 (£72m)’.

The report continues:

“The rewards of ASI’s aid-funded business have been particularly rich for the company’s directors. ASI is owned by a holding company called the Amphion Group, which is in turn owned by Adam Smith Advisory Group. In 2014, the Adam Smith Advisory Group said its seven paid directors shared just over £1m in salaries and benefits, with the highest-paid receiving almost £250,000 which is far more than what DfID’s top official, or even the UK prime minister, takes home”.

The report also inquires into ASI’s past. It claims ASI’s origins lie in the similarly named Adam Smith Institute, a right-wing think tank that is known for supporting tax cuts for the most wealthy and the privatization of public assets. Both organisations, it is argued, have a strong overlap of personnel and objectives. They are also closely connected to the UK’s ruling Conservative Party, which has been slashing budgets while opening up new opportunities for the most wealthy to park their money in British overseas tax havens.

Perhaps not surprisingly given its status as one of the world’s leading aid entrepreneurs, ASI has strongly lobbied for more aid to be delivered through private companies rather than government agencies or the not-for-profit sector. ASI has also argued that particularly in countries facing instability, private contractors such as itself can help the UK government exert its influence over local policies through the exercise of ‘soft’ power.

Indeed, the report notes in 2011 ASI ‘told a House of Lords committee that using private contractors for projects in conflict environments better “allows the projection of soft power” by increasing the UK’s ability to influence policy in these countries’.

“Technical assistance is very much complementary to ‘harder’ exercises of UK power such as military force”’.

This prompts a range of questions for PNG and Bougainville.

Has ASI been funded by the World Bank and Australian government to ‘influence’ PNG and Bougainville policy, in ways that benefit foreign powers and companies, rather than the citizens of PNG and Bougainville?

And just how much money does ASI pay its consultants and contractors who come into our country to exercise ‘soft power’ on behalf of their paymasters, whether it be Australia or the World Bank?

John Momis: Not the Brightest Bulb

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

cartoon showing ASI and AusAID pulling momis's strings

Australian government rejects advisers warning on Bougainville mine

April 23, 2014 1 comment

The Australian government’s subservient relationship with giant mining companies mean it has rejected AusAID’s advice that re-opening the Panguna mine will destabilize the island and it should instead focus on supporting the agriculture sector…

In a 2008 evaluation of AusAID’s development aid programme on Bougainville, experts employed by Australia’s aid agency offered sobering advice that is proving prescient.

The currently closed Panguna copper mine forms a backdrop to all discussion of economic recovery … It should be remembered that the mine was the original flashpoint of armed conflict in Bougainville … [The mine community’s] attitude to profit-seeking foreigners is dour. While some think that reopening the mine is possible, it is just as likely that any agreement would again collapse. In the interim, a strategy for economic recovery through agricultural production appears the most viable among the possibilities.

AusAID’s experts justify their emphasis on agriculture, noting:

Resumption of mining must also be weighed against the stress this would place upon Bougainville, which at this stage has all the characteristics of a fragile state. Influx of workers from elsewhere in PNG, the politics of royalty distribution and the political imperatives of a new and powerful stakeholder, the company, may create political shocks in Bougainville to destabilise the island in the run up to the autonomy referendum due between 2015 and 2020.

So, given the Australian government’s so called commitment to stability on Bougainville, why would it now pump millions into an unwanted project, administered by ‘profit-seeking foreigners’ that could potentially destabilise a fragile peace?

The Australian Green Party has obtained part of the answer from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. DFAT has revealed the Australian government is now being advised BY the same ‘profit-seeking foreigner’ – Rio Tinto – who to this day dodges war crime allegations over its former role on Bougainville.

And remember, according to Australia’s former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, it is this profit-seeking foreigner, who, along with BHP ‘run[s] the country’ i.e. Australia.

Below is a catalogue of all the TWENTY ONE 2013 meetings between Rio Tinto and the Australian government (Peter Taylor = BCL Chairman, Paul Coleman = BCL Secretary).

1

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Australian academics paid $500,000 over two years for mining work on Bougainville

April 3, 2014 8 comments

Question_on_Notice

Two Australian academics have been paid almost $500,000 by the Australian government for two years work towards reopening the Panguna mine in Bougainville.

The figures have been revealed by the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.

Bougainville has twice rejected Regan's controversial new Mining Law

Bougainville has twice rejected Regan’s controversial new Mining Law paid for by Australia

Controversial ABG advisor Anthony Regan has been paid over $270,000 – K680,000 – for his work drafting a controversial new Mining Law and other legislation.

Regan’s draft law has twice been rejected by the people pf Bougainville as being too biased in favor of foreign mining companies including Rio Tinto.

The figure revealed by the Committee as paid to Regan includes reimbursable travel costs and covers the period from June 2011 to November 2013.

A second Australian academic Ciaron O’Faircheallaigh has been paid $215,000 over two years for his work on negotiation “of a mining agreement to govern the Panguna mine”.

In total Australia is funding 22 ‘advisor’ positions in Bougainville – at an annual cost of $2.9 million in 2012/13. Some of the positions are full-time, some part-time and some are currently vacant according to the Committee.

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

Reading Between the Lines on PM O’Neill’s ‘Historic’ Bougainville Visit

January 30, 2014 3 comments

4saleMany would not have seen it among the ceremony and pomp that has accompanied Prime Minister O’Neill’s historic visit to Bougainville – it was the big ‘for sale’ sign O’Neill and Momis have just dangled around the island.

This is partly because O’Neill’s visit has been portrayed by a pliable media contingent as a historic act of reconciliation between PNG and Bougainville; the breaking of arrows. ‘Why here’, ‘why now’, are not words any one dares utter. But utter they should.

For the past three years the ABG has made its development strategy clear – the sell-off of Bougainville’s marine, timber and mineral resources to foreign investors. As a result President Momis has been busy in the Philippines and China enjoying five star treatment, while Asian investors eye Bougainville’s riches, along with the old-hand Rio Tinto.

But there is one problem niggling at the President, ‘stability’. If foreign investors are to be wooed, they need to be able to convince creditors that they are not about to park their funds in a black hole. As BCL’s Chairman recently told the Murdoch press in Australia:

When I need to raise the money for this mine, by going to banks and investors, wanting to raise billions of dollars, they’re going to say: “Tell me about Bougainville.” If Bougainville is the world’s newest nation, with no track record of managing projects, as opposed to PNG which has a long track record, it’s going to be easier to raise the money if Bougainville doesn’t go down the independence route. I wouldn’t even go to the market at this stage, because I can’t tell the market what they’re investing in.

Enter Prime Minister O’Neill. With concerns being increasingly raised about Bougainville’s stability as it approaches its independence referendum, O’Neill and Momis have entered a pact of convenience.

It needs to be said O’Neill is not hell bent on keeping Bougainville – he will respect the referendum decision – however, the PM certainly does not want an independent or autonomous Bougainville being a financial albatross around PNG’s neck for years to come.

On the other hand, Momis has had something of an economic conversion since becoming President, and believes only a fire sale of Bougainville’s natural resources to foreign investors will save his land from ruin.

Momis and O’Neill might not like each other (!!), but they know they need each other. If PNG is to be rid of the financial albatross, O’Neill believes he must assure the international community that whatever the outcome of the referendum, PNG will act as a mature friend of Bougainville. On the other hand, Momis has bought the AusAid mantra and thinks that only the wide-scale sell off of Bougainville’s resources will establish an economic future for his island, so Momis needs O’Neill to act as a mature guarantor foreign investors can believe in.

These are not necessarily well thought out or well supported strategies, indeed they may be the quickest route to wrack and ruin; but it explains the recent odd behaviour of Momis and O’Neill, who are what the kids call these days, ‘frenemies’.