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.