Commentary By Bryan Kramer, PNGFacts
On 22nd December 2016 social media exposed an illegal land grab over two parcels of prime public land in Madang involving Minister of Petroleum & Energy and Member of Madang Open Nixon Duban and the Minister of Lands Benny Allan.
On 5th December 2016 Minister of Lands Benny Allan issued a notice under Section 72(d) of the Lands Act (Powers of Minister to Grant State Lease Directly) granting a business lease for development of commercial complexes and residences over land described as Sir Donald Cleland Park and Yabong Sports Field to a paper company Dawan Investments Ltd.
Minister of Land’s decision was made following the request of Member of Madang Nixon Duban in a letter dated 16 November 2016. Duban claimed that the Madang District Development Authority (DDA) resolved to develop the two parcels of land for the purpose of the 2018 APEC meeting.
Duban goes on to claim that it was also the Board’s (DDA) decision that Dawan Investments Ltd be awarded the title over the two parcels of land to commence immediate development. He requested the Minister immediately transfer the title to Dawan Investments.
Twenty days later on 5 December 2015 the Minister of Lands complied with Duban’s request awarding the title over both parcels of land to the company.
So what was the proposed development?
According to a letter purportedly authored by the Dawan’s Investment Managing Director – “it was the company’s intention to show case the economic opportunities for the summit” .. to construct a mega mall with a recreational playground”
However after the story broke on social media receiving much public criticism seems the scope of development has now changed to the development of two hotels. “The hotels are to carter for hundreds of executives and officers attending APEC meetings in town.” said Madang DDA CEO (District Administrator).
So was the granting of the title to Dawan Investments by the Minister of Lands illegal?
The short answer is Yes and before I explain why lets first establish some background facts surrounding this issue.
What do we know about Dawan Investments Ltd?
According to IPA records it is a locally registered company incorporation in June 2013. The company’s three directors include:
1) Mr. Stanley Kaut former IT officer with Nasfund and family relative of Duban, who resides at McGregor Police Barracks, 9 Mile Port Moresby;
2) Ms Pauline Galopo, admin officer and a family relative to Duban who resides at Gerehu Stage 3B in Port Moresby
3) Mr. Felix Abegul recent UPNG graduate employed with Madang DDA on administrative matters and to manage district projects;
Duban’s wife Debbie Duban is also the Company’s Vice-chairman and Treasurer. However her appointment is yet to be registered with the public records of IPA.
The company’s Shareholders include Mr. Stanley Kaut and Mr Lamak Kautit. Mr. Kautit’s residential address is the same as Duban’s in Port Moresby Section 33 Lot 1 Sogeri Road.
Former Director and shareholder of the company include Collin Iwap, Duban’s electoral officer and current District funds co-coordinator.
The company’s registered office is also Duban’s residential address in Port Moresby.
According to the company’s minutes the company was formed “to assist and serve as mediator between Government organisations, private sector and general public in terms of proposal preparations, security assessments and government implemented projects”
In summary the Member of Madang wrote to Minister of Lands insisting he transfer the title over the two parcels of prime public land to a company made up of this own staff, family relatives and wife.
A company that is registered less than three years ago, has no record of actually operating or track record to carrying out any development let alone the major development of a mega mall or two hotels.
Now it is important to note Duban’s letter to the Minister was in response to a letter he received from an unnamed person signing off as Managing Director of Dawan Investments Ltd.
Who wrote “my company has just received approvals from the National Physical Planning Board for the re-zoning and the proposed development which the company is planning to construct within the site.” [Sir Donald Cleland Park]
“…we would very much appreciate it if the title of the subject parcel of land to be granted directly to you under Section 72 of Lands Act, subsection (a) or Section 102 subsections 1 and 2 where it says the Minister of Lands and Physical Planning may grant a special business lease to companies or individuals as he sees fit”
Now this is where it gets interesting – the letter to Duban from the Managing Director was not authored on Dawan Investments Ltd company letterhead but a company by the name of Loyaluck Investments Limited.
IPA records confirm this company is owned by a Chinese company Plataus Resources Ltd, registered in Hong Kong only a year earlier (April 2015). The company’s sole director is a young Chinese woman Ms. Wen Lei Cui.
She is also the director of the companies behind Plataus Resources Ltd , Moneyman Investments Co Ltd and Dynamic Wealth Resources Ltd.
The signature of the person writing under the title of Managing Director of Dawan Investments does not match any of the signatures of the persons named as the company directors or secretary.
Yet he clearly refers to Dawan Investments as “his company” or was he referring to Loyaluck Investments Ltd whose ultimate holding is a Chinese company.
Duban was recently accused of associating with an young Chinese female by the name of Dora Lu. She is accused of acting as agent for Chinese companies playing a key role in comforting PNG Ministers of State and Department heads in the Petroleum and other key sectors. Is it a coincidence the ultimate holding company behind Loyaluck Investments Ltd is registered as a Resource Company also involving a young Chinese female.
This begs the question whether Dawan Investments is just is a front used to acquire public land for Chinese nationals.
Back to the central question whether the granting of the title to Dawan Investments was illegal?
According to the notice issued by Minister of Lands he exercised his powers under Section 72(d) of the Lands Act to grant a direct lease to the company without having to follow the usual process of referring the application to the Lands Board.
The problem is Section 72(d) relates to granting of State Leases under Section 99, which states the Minister may, by written agreement grant a lease of Government land on which there is a building the property of the State.
Now neither parcel of land has Government buildings on it. Therefore the Minister’s decision to grant the lease under Section 72(d) was illegal.
Further even if the Minister of Lands had complied with the request of the Managing Director of Dawan/Loyaluck Investments and directed the land be awarded to Member of Madang Nixon Duban under Section 72(a) it would also be illegal as this provision only relates to granting of business or agriculture leases over customary land.
So now that we have established the granting of the lease to Dawan Investments is illegal will anything be done about it?
Well I’ve issued instructions to my lawyer in Madang to file proceedings seeking an extension to file an appeal against the Minister of Land’s decision and at the same time obtain a caveat (stay) over the land pending the outcome of proceedings.
With the National Elections around the corner I expect the good Minister of Lands to revoke his decision to avoid being dragged through the Court and implicated in an illegal land grab.
In a blatant abuse of position, MP for Madang and Minister for Petroleum, Nixon Duban, has successfully lobbied for two controversial commercial leases to be granted to a company, Dawan Investment, to which he has strong personal ties.
Nixon Duban is a member of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s People National Congress party and a former executive officer for the PM.
Nixon Duban’s sister, Debbie Duban is the treasurer and vice-chair of Dawan Investment, the beneficiary of the leases:
Dawan Investment was set up in 2013 by Nixon Duban’s electoral officer, Collins Iwap. Iwap signed the application for the registration of Dawan Investment and was initially a company Director:
Dawan Investment is 50% owned by Stanley Kaut, who works in Nixon Duban’s Ministerial office and 50% by Lamak Katit, a relative of the Minister.
Dawan Investment has its registered address at Section 33, Allotment 01, Sogeri Road, Port Moresby. An address it shares with another company, Penquin Real Estate for which Barbara Ali Duban is a director. Lamak Katit also owns 50% of Penquin Real Estate.
None of these connections were revealed by Nixon Duban when he wrote personally wrote to Lands Minister Benny Allen, urging him to grant two commercial leases over 8 hectares of Cleland Park and 2 hectares of green space opposite the Holy Spirit Cathedral and consent to the leases being transferred to Dawan Investment:
The leases were duly granted by Minister, Benny Allen on December 8th.
It is not known whether Nixon Duban ever declared his interest in Dawan Investment to the Madang District Development Authority, but it seems very strange Dawan has been entrusted by the Authority with the development of a ‘Mega Mall’, ‘office complexes’ and ‘residences’ for the APEC summit, when the company has a paid up share capital of just K2,000, has never filed an annual return and has no declared assets and no declared staff…
The Sir Donald Cleland Park in Madang and the green space opposite the Holy Spirit Cathedral are to be lost to commercial development. Lands Minister Benny Allen has granted commercial leases over the two pieces of land for development by a company called Dawan Investment Limited. The documents below show the sorry tale – including how the 2018 APEC Summit has been used to justify the land grab.
The Prime Minister’s numerous promises to cancel the unlawful SABL leases have been exposed as a complete lie.
Proposed amendments to the Lands Act, released by the Minister, Benny Allen, show the government intends to allow the SABL leases to remain for their full 99 year terms.
This is despite the fact SABL leases have been exposed as an illegal scam by a Commission of Inquiry and in several court cases. The leases were issued without the informed consent of customary land owners and in breach of numerous rules and regulations.
Since receiving the CoI reports in June 2013 the Prime Minister has made repeated promises that he will implement the findings, cancel the leases and return 5 million hectares of land to its customary owners.
Instead the proposed amendments to the Lands Act, although preventing any new SABL leases from being issued, will allow the current leases to remain and in many cases landowners will not regain control of their land until after 2100!
Land (Amendment) Act 2013 [pdf file 5MB]
The government appears to be in disarray over the SABL land grab with everyone from the Prime Minister down singing from a different song book. But are the PM and his Ministers just running around like a bunch of headless chickens or is the apparent confusion really a smokescreen to hide the fact they have no intention of cancelling the unlawful leases or stopping the logging?
This week the Prime Minister said the delay in canceling the SABL leases is down to the Department of Lands ‘dragging its feet” and leaseholders taking legal actions [Post Courier, 13 January].
This directly contradicts his Chief Secretary who late last year said the delay was due to the need for legislation as no powers exist to cancel the leases.
But Lands Minister Benny Allen is telling yet a different story. He says his Department has no intention of canceling the SABLs and is instead preparing a submission to NEC proposing the leases be converted to registered land. [Loop PNG 13 January – warning, ignore the silly headline!]
Meanwhile Forest Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. According to him it doesn’t matter if the SABLs are valid or not he is not going to stop the logging companies from carrying on their forest clearances.
With more than 5 million cubic metres of logs, worth more than $500 million having already been exported from the SABL areas it is clear the Prime Minister was right when he told Parliament the foreign owned logging companies have conned landowners and are chopping down their forests and taking the proceeds offshore [September 2013]
Unfortunately the PM seems to have failed to convince his Forest Minister – or is he too happy to see the logging continue while he protests his own innocence in the whole affair?
What can we conclude from all this?
Clearly someone is paying someone to make sure nothing happens!
And either the PM has completely no control over his government or he and his Ministers are happy to be seen running around like headless chooks in order to try and cover up their complicity in the illegal logging and land grabbing.
Secretary for Lands Romily Kila-Pat has finally been suspended – you can read some of the newspaper coverage from last week below – but the corruption in the Lands Department has yet to be properly addressed.
Kila-Pat, like his predecessor Pepi Kimas, has overseen numerous illegal lands deals and was infamously involved in many of the unlawful SABL leases – but the corruption in the Lands Department runs far deeper and two important questions need answering:
- Why has it taken so long for any action to be taken against Kila-Pat?
- When are we going to see decisive and effective action – including criminal prosecutions – against all the Lands officers involved in corrupt deals?
For evidence of the depth of the problems in the Lands Department we need look no further than Minister Benny Allen. This is what he said in October 2012:
“I have seen first hand the blatant abuse of due process thereby promoting corruption and high level of inefficiency within the Department of Lands and Physical Planning. The system of land administration is corrupt and dysfunctional.”
But it was a full year later before, in September 2013, the Minister said he had set up a special investigation team to look at all the questionable land deals within his department. But we never heard anything more about that investigation team and can only presume it was just a cover story for continuing business as usual.
So, the Minister has sat back for three years and done nothing about the corruption – it is easy to conclude why…
In 2013 the SABL Commission of Inquiry identified Kila-Pat’s role in many of the unlawful SABL leases – but bizarrely the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill left Kila-Pat as Secretary while at the same time promising action to cancel the leases.
Of course those promises from our Prime Minister have never been fulfilled. It is easy to conclude why…
As far back as 2007 the Public Accounts Committee declared:
‘The Department of Lands and Physical Planning has become an arm of private enterprise [who is] responsible for allocating Leases regardless of the Law and to the very considerable cost of the State and the citizens of Papua New Guinea’.
But of course the politicians just looked on and did nothing to investigate the leases or deal with the Lands officers involved – any suggestions why that might have been?
Even the courts have noted and condemned the corruption in the Department of Lands. This was Justice Kandakasi just a few months ago:
“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”.
Our new Secretary for Lands says his Department is riddled with corruption and he wants more transparency (see news story below). But..
- When will see any of the SABL leases canceled?
- When will we see see any other Lands Department officers suspended?
- When will we see them and Kila-Pat prosecuted?
These are the questions Sipison needs to answer if we are not to view his appointment as anything other than short-term political expediency designed to lift the heat before the corruption continues as usual…
Sipison wants transparency
Source: The National, Friday September 25th, 2015
Acting Lands and Physical Planning Secretary Luther Sipison aims to bring about more “transparency” in the department after years of allegations of corruption by officers.
He said that after his appointment was formally gazetted on Wednesday and his predecessor Romily Kila Pat suspended.
“The people deserve to be informed of what is happening (within the department),” Sipison said.
“I’m taking up the office with transparency.
“The office belongs to the seven million people of this country.
“They must know what is happening within this office, within the department.”
Sipison said the gazettal was “long overdue”.
“They should have done it after the suspension but it’s taken three weeks. We have a special executive meeting (today) and we go from there.”
State confirms Lands position
Source: The National, Thursday September 24th, 2015
THE Government has confirmed in a gazette the suspension of Romilly Kila Pat as Lands and Physical Planning secretary, and the appointment of Luther Sipison in an acting capacity.
The gazette dated yesterday, Sept 23, was signed by acting Governor-General Theodore Zurenuoc.
It is effective from Sept 3. Sipison is acting secretary for three months.
Sipison had complained on Monday that Kila Pat was still occupying the office, thus creating confusion among staff members.
Kila Pat in response said he had not been served any formal notice about his suspension, thus would remain in office until such time he received one. “It’s simple: I have not been officially advised by the relevant authorities,” he told The National.
“I’m aware of my suspension. But normally the process is, once the NEC makes a decision, the Prime Minister signs that decision.
“It goes back again through the process, being noted by NEC, and it goes through the people who administer my contract, the Department of Personnel Management, who make an acting appointment. That appointment gets gazetted and they will formally convey it to me.
“I need to know these things properly. I need to hand over responsibilities to the acting appointment, who is one of my deputy secretaries (Sipison).”
Corrupted land deal allegations rife: Sipison
Source: The National, Wednesday September 23rd, 2015
Acting Lands and Physical Planning Acting Secretary Luther Sipison admits that his department is teeming with allegations of corrupt land deals by his officers.
Sipison, who is now in the hot seat following the suspension of Romily Kila Pat by the National Executive Council earlier this month, made the frank admission in an interview with The National on Monday.
“I think the problem (corruption) is a chronic one that has existed for a long time and it’s going to take a while to address this issue,” he said.
“If we are going to be true and transparent in our dealings, maybe what we can do is to reshuffle staff – it’s about corruption within the department, not management.
“To address this, we have to look at the reasons behind this happening within the department and a culture that allows this to exist.
“It’s quite complex. It’s not a matter of you changing the secretary and everything will just change.
“I’m confident that we have good people within the department.
“We can start from some place to change the department’s image and its future.”
Sipison has moved in fast to address claims by real estate businessman Michael Kandiu that he was a victim of fraudulent deals by the department.
Kandiu claimed that his land at Portion 1671 (Bomana), Granville, National Capital District, was forfeited by the department.
“I’m going to do my bit to address issues. I think the best thing to do is to expose the rot that exists within the department.”
Kila Pat refuses to leave office
Source: The National, Tuesday September 22nd, 2015
SUSPENDED Lands and Physical Planning secretary Romily Kila Pat, pictured, is refusing to vacate his office, according to acting secretary Luther Sipison.
Sipison, who was appointed acting secretary by Cabinet on September 3, told The National yesterday that it was creating confusion in the department.
But Kila Pat yesterday clarified that he had not been served a formal suspension notice, hence, would remain in office.
Sipison said: “The appointment was made three weeks ago but I am still to move into the office because the suspended secretary (Kila Pat) is still in the office.
“He’s claiming that he hasn’t been formally notified (of his suspension) by the Department of Personnel Management.
“That’s why he’s still in there. Protocol is for me to sign the instruments.
“But why is it taking too long? I do not know.
“This will be the fourth week,” he said.
Sipison said the National Executive Council had already made the decision. “The decision has been made and those responsible for that decision must do the right thing so that there is a smooth handover, so that my appointment can come into effect and we move on in the department,” he said.
“Morale in the department is low, the staff are confused.
“The suspension has been made but the suspended secretary is still running the show.”
Sipison said Kila Pat was suspended over a number of allegations against him on land deals.
“I was appointed on September 3 by the National Executive Council,” Sipison said.
“That process has to go through the normal gazettal, but I haven’t sighted it as yet.”
Kila Pat when contacted said: “I am still in office.
“It’s simple. I have not been officially advised by the relevant authorities.
“I’m aware of my suspension, but normally the process is I’m a contract officer.
“Once the National Executive Council makes a decision, the Prime Minister signs that decision.
“It goes back again through the process, being noted by the National Executive Council, and it goes through the people who administer my contract, the Department of Personnel Management, who make an acting appointment.
“That appointment gets gazetted and they will formally convey it to me.
“The decision by National Executive Council is a decision until it goes through this process.
“I need to know these things properly.
“I need to hand over responsibilities to the acting appointment, who is one of my deputy secretaries (Sipison).”
Kila-Pat said he had already spoken with Sipison.
“I’ve spoken with him (Sipison) already. It’s okay,” he said.
“It’s the decision of the government.
“Whatever the allegations are against me, I will respond to them.
“My being in office is just to maintain continuity.
“I’m just waiting for the decision. Once I get it, I’m gone,” Kila Pat said.
The same corrupt officials in the Department of Lands who facilitated the illegal SABL land grab are now blocking the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry recommendation to revoke the unlawful leases, as Radio Australia reveals below.
While sitting on the Commission of Inquiry report for more than a year the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Lands Minister Benny Allen have failed to act on promises to eradicate the corruption and remove the officers responsible. They have even left one of the main facilitators of the land grab, Romilly Kila-Pat, as Secretary of the Department!
Return of titles to PNG land scandal victims delayed
By Jemima Garrett for ABC Radio Australia
The return of millions of hectares of Papua New Guinean land to traditional owners affected by a land-leasing scandal has been delayed.
The return of millions of hectares of Papua New Guinean land to traditional owners affected by a land-leasing scandal has been delayed.
Lands Department Secretary Romily Kila-Pat last week told Pacific Beat hundreds of thousands of affected landowners could expect to have their land back by Monday, but it has been revealed that it will take longer than a week to process the cancellation of leases.
His comments came after PNG’s National Executive Council (NEC) ordered the cancellation of 25 Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) as recommended by a Commission of Inquiry.
Land Titles Registrar Benjamin Samson is overseeing the cancellation of leases and says the legal process will take longer than a week.
“By law we have to give [the leaseholders] 14 working days for them to deliver up the title, the owner’s copy that is in the hands of the leaseholders,” he said.
Mr Samson says the process is more involved than previously indicated, requiring ordering of summons for the 25 SABLs before lease cancellation.
“The law is designed as such that before cancellation is to be done a notice, which is called a summons has to be issued to the respective leaseholders,” he said.
“[Because] some leaseholders might want to challenge the decision that we would undertake but I mean, as the agent of state, we are here to comply with the decision of the government of the day so that is another matter for the leaseholders to pursue.”
Mr Samson says the return of land could be delayed further in the likely event that leaseholders decide to challenge the NEC’s decision in court.
“Well, if they do obtain an injunction, if the matter goes before the court, then of course we will have to await the outcome of the court decision before the cancellation can be fully-effected,” he said.
“I think a number of leaseholders, especially those lease-holders or those companies, who on the ground have expended a lot of money, they might want to pursue it in court but I am not sure.
“We will wait and see if we are served those court documents or not.”
Mr Samson expects the first leases to be cancelled by mid-July.