STATEMENT: Brief on New Bill to Strip Rights to Land

A new law was bulldogged through the PNG Parliament last week that outlaws those third party lawsuits against resource projects in Papua New Guinea. According to Environment and Conversation Minister Benny Allan that, Environment (Amendment) Bill 2010 will supplement, give full effects to enable companies holding environmental permits to comply with the standards stated in their permit. The amendment will mitigate risks associated with third party litigation, or lawsuits. The government is claiming that recent court decision against the state exposed resource projects to the risks that environmental permits granted by the state satisfying legal and scientific requirements.

However, the indigenous landowners including us believe that the Bill strips our rights to land. The bill leaves companies and developers immune to law suits for compensation, “even if they were negligent or at fault”. This is one of the worst pieces of legislation on human rights. The bill stripped the landowners of common law and customary law rights that we have had for over 10,000 years. Multi nationals in the extractive industries cannot be sued for negligent. It does not matter even if the companies are at fault…. so long as the company was carrying out the activity it was authorized under the permit to do- it escapes all liability for environmental damages.

The main reason behind the government to rush the bill through, changes to sections of the Environmental Act 2000, “prevent landowners and concerned Papua New Guinean from interfering with the extractive projects.

Its sad news in our struggles but we are trying to liaise with landowners throughout Papua New Guinea to mount a high court review. We will desperately new assistance with regards to the court challenge and we will advise as and when the matter develops to reality.

Mark Tony Ekepa



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