Has Prime Minister Peter O’Neill finally acted on his promises and ended the SABL land grab and stopped the illegal logging?
It is now 1,386 days since the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detailed the widespread fraud and mismanagement that allowed foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 50 thousand square kilometres of land.
Over that time the Prime Minister has made repeated promises to cancel the leases and stop the logging but, for almost four years, nothing has happened, while the logging companies continued to chop down and export logs worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Minister Benny Allen has been quoted saying:
“The Government has taken a blanket cancellation of all special agriculture business leases in the country and as we speak, they are all illegal”.
“I have given directions to acting secretary to write letters to all special agriculture business lease holders, informing them that the leases that they are holding are illegal and no longer in force now. It’s another useless document of no legal value and effect”.
There is, of course, a sting in the tail; the Prime Minister and Minister Allen also say the government will now assist ‘genuine’ investors to acquire a new title to the land they have illegally occupied, using incorporated land groups and land registration. It is not clear which SABL areas this applies to, although the PM has singled out Rimbunan Hijau’s operations in Pomio for praise, despite the strong community opposition to the logging and oil palm operations there.
Silent though has been Logging Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa. Has the Forest Authority stopped all logging in SABL areas and are all the Forest Clearance Authorities being cancelled or withdrawn?
Without any word from the Minister or PNG Forest Authority, the public will be wise to remain skeptical.
In October 2012, the then new Lands Minister, Benny Allen spoke eloquently about the rampant corruption in his Department that had led to the SABL land grab and other abuses:
I have seen firsthand the blatant abuse of due process thereby promoting corruption and high level of inefficiency within the department of Lands & Physical Planning. The system of land administration is corrupt and dysfunctional.
First, I will implement the policy of zero tolerance on corruption within the Department. Corruption has resulted in the loss of large parcels of land owned both by customary land owners and the State.
As you all are aware, blatant abuse of process facilitated by staff within the Department over the years has led to large areas of customary land being fraudulently leased to foreigners for as long as 99 years throughout the country.
In the interest of protecting Papua New Guinea land from being fraudulently transacted, I will ensure that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Issuance of Special Agriculture Businesses Leases (SABL) are fully implemented.
Now, more than four years later, not one lease has been cancelled and the Minister has radically changed his position, seemingly swallowed up by the same corruption he vowed to fight.
Rather than ensuring the SABL Commission of Inquiry recommendations are fully implemented and the leases cancelled as he promised, the Minister is now trying to endorse and consolidate the land grab by issuing new leases to the very same companies that stole the land in the first place.
The Minister says his Department is “converting these SABLs into customary land leases through the Incorporated Landowner Group and Voluntary Customary Lands Registration concepts.” 
It seems the only way the Prime Minister can now uphold his own promises to ensure the leases are cancelled will be to remove the Lands Minister…
1. National Land Development Conference Opening Speech, 12 October 2012
2. Post Courier, 15 March 2017
Source: Radio New Zealand
A lawyer in the Papua New Guinea city of Madang has laid a criminal complaint over alleged breaches of process by government ministers in a land deal.
Minister of Lands Benny Allan and Minister of Petroleum & Energy Nixon Duban have been accused of conspiring to attempt to unlawfully acquire two slabs of prime public land in Madang.
Bryan Kramer, who laid a complaint with Madang police, said the ministers circumvented a number of required processes in the land deal.
He claimed the awarding of the title by the Lands Minister was illegal, and that a National Physical Planning board failked to consult the provincial planning board when it rezoned the land.
“So then they had rezoned both pieces of land for commercial use, and then the Minister issued a directive, exercising his powers to grant the land directly to a company that is directly associated with Nixon Duban. When I looked at the instruments, I established that the minister had no such powers to make that decision, and he even invoked the wrong provisions of the law.”
He said he doesn’t expect the police to look far into this case, based on previous lack of action over a bribery case in the court of disputed election returns which found Mr Duban guilty.
Last month, PNG’s prime minister Peter O’Neill announced that two other cabinet ministers were standing aside pending a probe into their involvement in another allegedly fraudulent land deal.
The Minister for Defence Fabian Pok and Minister for State Enterprises William Duma are alleged to have committed the fraud in relation to a land deal for a purported PNG naval base relocation.
It has emerged that the state-owned asset holding company Kumul Consolidated Holdings paid a company closely linked with Mr Duma US$14million to purchase land at Manumanu in Central Province.
Mr O’Neill ordered the Police Commissioner to look into the allegation, and has signalled that there will be a Commission of Inquiry to examine the allegations around the land deal.
Both ministers in the allegedly-criminal land deal in Madang are members of Mr O’Neill’s People’s National Congress party.
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]