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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.

An Open Letter to the Australian Federal Police: The Tjoeng family and Garamut Enterprises

March 31, 2015 Leave a comment

Commissioner Andrew Colvin
Australian Federal Police
GPO Box 401
Canberra ACT 2601
AUSTRALIA

Dear Sir

RE:    Mr Daniel M.E. Tjoeng. James N.E Tjoeng, Mr. Matthew W.E. Tjoeng and Foeng Tjoeng and their illegal activities in Papua New Guinea

Given the Australian Federal Police recognises corruption undermines fair competition and can have disastrous consequences for developing economies;

Given the AFP is proactively seeking to address global fraud and corruption issues including foreign bribery;

Given the existing AFP Mission to Papua New Guinea under the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership and its focus on fraud and anti-corruption including financial intelligence;

Given the Australian government spends $577 million a year on aid to PNG and the effectiveness of that spending is undermined by corruption and fraud.

Given that two of the key areas that Australian aid is spent on are law & justice, and governance;

We wish to bring to your attention the involvement of four Australian citizens and their family business in illegal activity in PNG.

Mr Daniel M.E. Tjoeng. James N.E Tjoeng, Mr. Matthew W.E. Tjoeng and Foeng Tjoeng are the shareholders and directors of the PNG registered company, Garamut Enterprises.

Daniel holds 13.5% of the shares in the company, James 13.5%, Foeng 5% and Matthew holds 17.5% of the shares. The other shareholders are all members of the Tjoeng family. The four named gentlemen, together with Robert T.E. Tjoeng  are the Directors of the company. Foeng and James Tjoeng are also listed as company secretaries.. Clearly, Garamut Enterprises is a Tjoeng family owned and controlled company.

Garamut Enterprises has been exposed in official investigations and reports in Papua New Guinea as being involved in at least fives instances of illegal activity – two involving illegal payments and three illegal land transactions:

  • ONE: Garamut received K28,000 illegally paid out of the government’s Cocoa Stabilization Fund without Ministerial approval.

Source: Report of the Auditor General 2010. Download as a pdf

  • TWO: Garamut received K137, 797 illegally paid for ‘Pagui Ambunti District Treasury Office Building’. The payment did not follow procurement process. Information and accounting documentation was not available.

Source: Public Accounts Committee Report to Parliament on the Inquiry into the Sepik Highways, Roads and Bridges Maintenance and other Infrastructure Trust Account. Download as a pdf

  • THREE: Garamut was granted a state lease over Portion 2399 by the Lands Department despite the fact this is substantially customary land situated at the top of Burns Peak. The lease was illegally exempted from advertisement which meant no competitive tender and no revenue to the State.

Source: Public Accounts Committee Report to Parliament on the Inquiry into the Department of Land and Physical Planning.

  • FOUR: Garamut was granted a business commercial lease over Lot 23, Section 71, Hohola in 1999, which was originally zoned open space. The NCD Physical Planning Board had initially rejected the application, claiming it was too close to residents, and should be developed as a public park.  The Minister for Lands overruled the Board and the lease was eventually granted. Judge Sheehan has stated:

“From the time Garamut’s application was lodged the processing of the application failed totally to follow the requirements of the Land Act. The breaches were gross, a travesty, to the extent that it can be said the Act was not followed at all. But further, to the extent that the Minister made a disposition of State land which was not open to scrutiny but removed from the public without the sanction of the Act, granted private access to State land, conferring an advantage, particularly a commercial advantage on a single applicant without reason, the grant clearly is not only outside the scope and purposes of the Act, unreasonable and unlawful, it is a fraud on the Act itself. The grant in fact was a nullity and no lease, no interest in land, no title was issued in accordance with the Act”.

Source: Steamships Trading Company Ltd v Minister For Lands and Physical Planning [2000] PGNC 11. Available online

  • FIVE: Garamut was granted a lease over customary land (Portion 2585) in 2008 through an Urban Development Lease.  Judge Kandakasi has stated:

“Despite the lack of any acquisition by the State of Portion 2585, people in the Department of Lands facilitated and enable the grant of the UDL in favour of Garamut over Portion 2585. In so doing those who were responsible in my view, did so fraudulently against the traditional or customary owners of the land. Sitting in the National and Supreme Courts for a while now, I have come across more cases of possible fraud facilitated by the Registrar of Titles and other officers of the Department of Lands. This must stop and the only way to do that is to have proper investigations and those responsible being criminally charged and proceeded with. I would therefore strongly recommend (since I cannot direct the police) that the police take the relevant and necessary steps right away”.

Source: Loa v Kimas [2014] PGNC 209. Available online

It is also noted that Garamut Enterprises is registered in PNG as a ‘local company’ despite 86.5% of its shares being held by Australian citizens.

In the light of the above we would kindly request the AFP to investigate the activities of the four named persons and their involvement in illegal activity in PNG.

Yours faithfully

On behalf of The People of Papua New Guinea