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Dame Carol Kidu and the Paga Hill documentary

April 4, 2016 4 comments

Last week numerous articles appeared in the Australian and PNG press on Carol Kidu’s legal action against filmmaker, Hollie Fifer.

We are informed Kidu is furious at Fifer for a feature length documentary – The Opposition – which she made on the brutal series of demolitions at Paga Hill and the illegal land transactions underpinning this human rights abuse.

Kidu has also made serious accusations against the central protagonist in this film, Port Moresby human rights advocate Joe Moses.

Working with local communities, the national museum and other stakeholders, for the past five years Moses has tried to save Port Moresby’s historic Paga Hill from the developer’s knife through the Paga Heritage Foundation.

For his efforts Moses has suffered police harassment, character assassinations and anonymous death threats.

It is unclear who is behind this campaign of intimidation. However, the movement led by Moses has annoyed a number of powerful figures in Port Moresby’s expatriate elite, and their political allies in government.

At the heart of this struggle is Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson. Based out of his sizable home in Cairns, Fridriksson has been at the centre of numerous corruption scandals uncovered by the Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee and the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance.

gummi mansion

Fridriksson’ Queensland mansion.

Fridriksson is also the CEO of the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), which has been working with Chinese investors to erect a luxury development at Paga Hill. Despite the efforts of Joe Moses and other conservationists, residents’ homes, a school, a church, and historic relics were destroyed in a series of demolition exercises between 2012-2014. PHDC has only acknowledged involvement in the first demolition.

Gudmundur Fridriksson, PHDC’s Chinese investors and NCDC Governor Powes Parkop

Gudmundur Fridriksson, PHDC’s Chinese investors and NCDC Governor Powes Parkop

When this issue originally erupted on the national stage four years ago it was Carol Kidu who became the figurehead of the struggle to save Paga Hill from PHDC. She was appalled that an area once reserved as a national park would be entrusted to someone slammed in numerous corruption inquiries. Kidu rallied behind Joe Moses and became the political face of the campaign to save Paga Hill.

This is what she wrote in the Post-Courier during 2012:

‘the media have continually portrayed me as an emotional woman, protecting settlers, and anti-development. Yes I am emotional about the blatant corruption, greed and land theft in “modern” PNG and I am emotional when I personally witness gross abuse of human rights’.

She continued:

‘there was no tender process for the land and the company owes the State of Papua New Guinea millions of kina in unpaid land tax. They have paid nothing for this land and their so called relocation scheme [of existing residents] was laughable’.

A more detailed criticism of the company was provided in a press statement released by Kidu, where she details the flagrant violations of the Land Act 1996 committed by PHDC, all of which was tabled to parliament in 2012.

Police Pointing Guns

Dame Carol Kidu is escorted from Paga Hill by police in May 2012

Yet no apparent attempt was made by the O’Neill government to investigate. To the contrary, the government has give the developer tax breaks and offered its full support for the luxury real estate development.

Behind Gudmundur Fridriksson and PHDC stand some powerful business figures. One PHDC shareholder, is Michael Nali. A former Deputy Prime Minister, Nali was the first to sponsor the Paga Hill Estate as one of “national significance” when Tourism Minister. He then acquired a stake in the company, when he lost office.

Nali remains a major Southern Highlands powerbroker, who is a close business partner of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Another important player is PHDC’s lawyer, Stanley Liria, who now holds a majority stake in PHDC which he evidently acquired from Fridriksson. Liria is known to have ties with the Prime Minister, and the Southern Highlands Governor, William Powi.

There is no evidence on the public record Prime Minister O’Neill or other politicians connected with PHDC have broken the law. But clearly the company’s local collaborators enjoy access to some the most influential political networks in the country.

Despite the controversy over the project in 2012, PHDC survived the initial public outcry. Then in 2013 there was another major twist.

Much to the surprise of those trying to save Paga Hill, Kidu announced she was now working under contract with PHDC, after she was personally approached by Gudmundur Fridriksson, and offered a consultancy deal.

The contract with PHDC is facilitated through a company fully owned by Kidu, C K Consultancy Limited.

Entity_Extract-CK_CONSULTANCY_LIMITED-1-850281

Entity_Extract-CK_CONSULTANCY_LIMITED-1-850282

This is not the first time Kidu has angered friends and colleagues fighting against companies involved in serious human rights abuses.

Take the example of Australian miner, Bougainville Copper Limited, who had been implicated in atrocities committed on Bougainville by government security forces.

In a bid to clean its public image, BCL appointed Kidu non-executive Director. For this role Kidu was paid K150,000 in 2014, and K135,000 in 2015.

Kidu Director BCL

Kidu has also worked for Canadian miner, Barrick Gold, after it was discovered the company’s security forces at its Porgera mine were involved in rapes and gang rapes against local women. In a bid to avoid a costly legal case and potentially sizable court awarded damages, Barrick Gold successfully reached out of court agreements with victims.

Most of the victims were evidently given less than USD 6,000 in compensation, and offered counselling services.

The Barrick package was heavily criticised in a 129-page report released by legal experts at the Columbia and Harvard law school, who referred to it as ‘deeply flawed’. One of the lead authors of the report claims:

‘These are some of the most vicious assaults I have ever investigated. The women and local communities had to struggle for years just to get the company to admit what happened. They had been suffering for far too long, and deserved much more’.

Much to the surprise of many in the human rights community, it was Carol Kidu who rallied behind Barrick Gold, and agreed to oversee their ‘deeply flawed’ remediation process. She even defended the company when complaints were lodged with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Porgera Letter Kidu

There is nothing illegal about working for, or providing services to, foreign companies implicated in rapes, killings and home demolitions, that clearly comes down to an individual’s moral code. However, clearly there are ethical dilemmas involved, especially for those who proclaim to uphold the highest social standards.

Peter O’Neill recently claimed that many retired politicians leave parliament destitute, which might help explain Kidu’s consultancy contracts with companies implicated in serious human rights abuses.

However, according to Queensland property records Dame Kidu purchased a home at the Machans Beach on 19 April 2011, for approximately K822,368. The property is a few streets away from a second home registered in the name od Dame Kidu’s daughter, which was purchased for approximately K690,000 on 10 June 2009.

Machans Beach is a popular holiday spot for those seeking tranquillity and unspoilt ocean

Machans Beach is a popular holiday spot for those seeking tranquillity and unspoilt ocean 

If these property records are accurate, it would appear that these decisions cannot have been motivated by matters of economic survival.

We live in a free country. Kidu is welcome to do what she wants, make money how ever she wants, and work with whoever she wants, no matter what those foreign companies have done.

But why is she attacking and endangering the life of human rights defenders, she once supported?

Although no doubt unintentional, since Kidu went to the press, those close to him report report Joe Moses’ life has been put in danger by angry supporters of the Dame. He is now scared to walk the streets.

In addition to this a filmmaker who has captured one of Papua New Guinea’s most inspiring stories, is facing litigation in the NSW Supreme Court.

It has not been a good week for Papua New Guinea’s human rights community.

What hope do human rights defenders like Joe Moses have when they are under assault from PNG’s most powerful and influential political figures?

Can a little person ever truly stand up to a revered politician and the expatriate business elite? And if they do what will it cost them?

Ask Joe Moses, he is paying the price.

The embarrassing tale of the King James Bible present to PNG: Fraud, Corruption, Hypocrisy, Cargo Cultism, and amusement

May 8, 2015 25 comments

By Anonymous and via Nineteen Years and Counting

The gift of the supposed 1st edition 1st imprint of the 1611 King James Bible to Papua New Guinea is an amazing piece of drama.  It wraps and presents in a single, digestible story all the craziness, hypocrisy and corruption that characterises PNG today.

THE FRAUD

Deceiving the people about what this Bible present represented was perpetrated largely by PNG Parliamentary speaker Theo Zurenuoc, who is so immersed in his magical cargo cult dream world that even having the whole world laugh at him wouldn’t cause him to pause and reflect. Zurenuoc’s fraud was four-fold:

The Fraud:  The Bible was not delivered by any American government party in Indiana.  Instead the event was an exchange between churches at the small

The Fraud: The Bible was not delivered by any American government party in Indiana. Instead the event was an exchange between churches at the small “Interchurch Holiness Convention” of fundamentalists in Dayton, Ohio

1. An American government gift?   Zurenouc originally said that the gift was coming from either the national government of the United States or the state government of Indiana.  Neither proved true.  No one who participated on this sightseeing trip has provided even one piece of evidence of American government involvement in the Bible gift nor its presentation.  The American Embassy in Port Moresby refuses to comment on the whole affair.

2. Donated and picked up in the USA State of Indiana?  The Bible was not received in Indiana by the Government of Papua New Guinea, but in another state altogether by PNG fundamentalist church leaders. The event occurred as one session during a meeting of the Interchurch Holiness Convention, which is solely comprised of fundamentalist Christians and took place in Dayton, Ohio.  This is well established by photos and accompanying captions that have appeared on the internet, as well as on the website of the group that presented the Bible.

3. A unified welcome for the Bible?   The major churches of PNG, including Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran, were silent about the gift when it arrived in PNG.  However, the Catholic church was outraged by the earlier destruction to parliament building traditional art carvings that Speaker Zurenuoc led in late 2013 as Step 1 of the process to ‘rid parliament building of evil spirits’.  The new Bible is Step 2 of the process.  The whole affair was led by the fundamentalist Christian sect called the PNG Bible Church which interprets the Bible in a very different way from the mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches. Only on 1 May did the Catholic Bishops finally acknowledge the Bible donation, showing dismay that Zurenuoc and others “often appear to use ‘Bible’ and ‘Word of God’ interchangeably, meaning that Zurenuoc was promoting an object as being the word of God rather than as witness to the word of God, as befits the reality of numerous Bible translations over the millenia and endless interpretations of what the words in the Bible say.

4. A rare, priceless gift to PNG of great significance?

The moment it got into PNG hands, the supposedly 'priceless' Bible was carried around like a common book, touched directly by people's fingers.   To treat a

The moment it got into PNG hands, the supposedly ‘priceless’ Bible was carried around like a common book, touched directly by people’s fingers. To treat a “priceless antique” in this way might be considered the height of blasphemy by knowledgeable Christians. The Bible now has its home in the humid tropics in a country that can’t even provide proper temperature and humidity control to protect its priceless cultural treasures in the PNG National Museum & Art Gallery. Fare thee well, priceless antique!

First, Zurenuoc said it was one of a kind, then he said it was 1 in 3 known copies, then he said it was 1 in 5 known copies, a statistic that PM Peter O’Neill repeated.  The story changed constantly.   PM Peter O’Neill stated that it was a “priceless antique”.  It was also reported as “known to be the best and most well preserved [copy]”.  You would never believe it, witnessing the relatively careless way the Bible was carried once it came into PNG hands.  Anyone who truly respected a priceless ancient book would never allow it to be exposed to air, much less handle it and parade it out in the open.  Zurenuoc’s ignorance and arrogance allowed all these violations to occur.  In the bigger picture, the Bible donation event was so insignificant that it wasn’t reported at all in the American media.  In fact, American scholar Donald Blake, in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation, flatly denounced Zurenuoc’s assessment of the Bible’s rarity, stating that there he has documented at least 169 known copies of the 1st edition King James Bible, and suspects there are as many as 680 in existence, most of which would be damaged, with pages missing.  Expert Blake estimated the value of the rarer 1st imprint Bible to be no more than USD $95,000, or about K280,000.

THE CORRUPTION

Unionist John Paska and the Post Courier now both say that the trip to get the Bible cost taxpayers K693,041,far more than the Bible’s estimated K280,000 worth.  Funding this junket with taxpayers’ money amounts to misappropriation for several reasons.

First, the government and the public was deceived by Speaker Zurenuoc that this was a government-to-government transaction and probably did so to escape misappropriation charges.  But the reality is that this was a fundamentalist Christian church-to-fundamentalist Christian church transaction that Speaker Zurenuoc only played a witnessing role in, driven by the Speaker’s personal religious beliefs.

Second, despite a party of 4 MPs taking off for the event, all photos posted on the internet that show the Bible transfer in Dayton, Ohio, shows only Speaker Zurenuoc present.  Missing in Action seem to be Southern Highlands Governor William Powi, Lae MP Loujaya Kousa, and Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Tobias Kulang.  None have come out in the media and stated what they did on this trip to justify the cost of sending them.  It is intriguing that MP Loujaya Kousa is not mentioned in Union leader John Paska’s submission to the Ombudsman Commission, even though she was originally included in the travel list and posted a remark on Facebook in a way that implies she was present at the handover.

Zurenuoc himself is silent about the MPs activities or any justification for sending a government party of at least 5 individuals for a private church trip at taxpayers expense.  Neither the Americans states of Indiana nor of Ohio would be considered top priorities of important places for a parliamentary delegation to visit to achieve anything significant.  This has all the appearances of being a sightseeing excursion for all but Zurenuoc, although undoubtedly many ‘great accomplishments’ will suddenly be revealed by Kulang, Powi, and Kousa if ever an investigation takes place.

james bible 3

THE HYPOCRISY 

A number of Christians in the social media either declined to respond to the allegations of misappropriation that this trip involved or have stated that it was okay that this trip be funded with taxpayers money.

This is a small example of a longer, bigger trend in a country that states itself to be Christian, but radiates to the world one example after another of hypocrisy against the Bible’s guiding words. Christian country PNG of today has few Christians displaying vocal outrage against either recent witch burnings nor violence against women generally.

For years, Christian churches and their congregations have hardly protested about blatent high level government corruption and stealing. Several Christians on the social media actually felt it was okay to use government funds for this recent even only because it involved a Bible, and ignored the lies and deceptions that surrounded the event.

This highlights a disturbing trend in PNG not to learn from mistakes that today’s advanced nations went through when  religion and governance were allowed to mix with each other, but to repeat the mistakes. It also displays for all to see the hypocrisy some PNG Christians have at understanding that the 10 Commandments do not only apply to “certain situations” and that anything involving the Bible is exempt from following God’s Word.

THE CARGO CULTISM

Primitive cargo cult mentality in PNG is alive and well. The mentality has its origins in not understanding how things work and assuming that only the proper rituals would lead to the wished for results.   Cargo cult mentality persists today in PNG because we’re content at our status as a poorly educated society.  This means that as a people we are largely ignorant of global realities and of how science and technology discover truths about the universe and it working.   People like Zurenuoc are products as well as promoters of this ignorance. Zurenuoc’s organised ritual to welcome the Bible, added to his pronouncements of this one Bible’s magic to change the nation is Biblical cargo cultism.

The Bible was paraded around Moresby and a red carpet reception as if it were either a person or a magic object.  It was lifted to idol worship status by promoting that it had exceptional power, above and beyond other Bibles.

Eda Ranu CEO Henry Mokono stated that the mere presence of the Bible “would make a difference in the long run” to straighten out all the social issues PNG was facing.  Speaker Zurenuoc stated that the mere presence of the Bible in parliament would “elevate the standard of leadership.”  Carrying out a ritual (the idol worship-style procession) in the expectation of cargo (the doing away with evil in parliament) fits the definition of classic cargo cultism.

THE SIDE ENTERTAINMENT

Dr Gene Hood, the fundamentalist Christian who donated the Bible, died the day after it was transferred into conspicuously careless PNG hands (what magical explanations could we come up to explain that coincidence?!).  Dr Hood was misrepresented by his PNG supporters as a billionaire media magnate.  In reality, he wasn’t even a millionaire and lived in a simple house at 216 S 17th Ave, Beech Grove, INDIANA 46107.  He owned a handful of radio stations under his company Pilgrim Communications, Inc., established with the idea of using radio to spread fundamentalist gospel.  Yet, he and son Randy, also a Pilgrim Communication principal, weren’t so committed to spreading the Good News that they said “no” to leasing one of their stations, KREL-AM to a group that proceeded to unveil its new programming schedule as KHIG(H), America’s first radio station to devote all its programming to promoting marijuana use.  This surprising news came out in April, just before the Bible donation, an unexpected development that’s not all that surprising, considering that so much was hidden from the people of Papua New Guinea about the Bible story to begin with.

The PNG government’s always-present commitment to non-transparency expressed itself once again in the King James Bible donation.  Zurenuoc and company bears the blame not only for early errors in figuring out what the Bible donation was all about.  However, Zurenuoc also gets all the credit for motivating a legion of volunteer internet investigators to dig out and expose the lies, deceptions, and other unpleasant facts surrounding this tale.