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Say they were left out of ownership determination

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 29, 2008) – Moran landowners have shut down two oil heads at the Northwest Moran project in Southern Highlands province in protest over their exclusion from the ministerial determination.

Chairman of the Pai Hoya Resource Owners Association Elvis Alungi said yesterday that about 50 men, women and children walked into the project site at 1 a.m. on Tuesday and shut down the Moran 12 and 13 oil heads.

"We, the real landowners of Northwest Moran (Block 1933), are frustrated with the action taken by both the National Government and resource developer, Oil Search Ltd," Mr Alungi said in a statement.

The protestors are from the Tambuaka, Tarakali and Yoloma clans of the Huli tribe.

Mr Alungi said they were not happy with the inclusion of the Ali Wepo, Toma and Wepo Kambolo clans in the determination.

He said proper procedures were not followed in the selection of the landowners because Petroleum and Energy officers carrying out the task did not travel by foot to verify those identified.

Oil Search confirmed yesterday that about 40 people walked into one of the NW Moran field wells at 6.30am yesterday.

"They were met by community affairs officers from Oil Search, who were aware of the planned walk-in," the company said in a short statement. "They were advised that their grievances were before the courts and they should return to their village. We understand that they were disputing the ministerial determination on the land ownership of the NW Moran fields, however, this matter has been taken to court by their lawyer, Michael Wilson of Warner Shand Lawyers. Oil Search has referred the matter to police."

Production has been restored.

Lawyer Wilson last Wednesday filed an application in the National Court seeking for the inclusion of "real" landowners who were left out in the ministerial determination.

Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru said late yesterday that this was bound to happen as he had advised Oil Search and the Department of Petroleum and Energy to physically carry out land identification. A fly-in survey was conducted instead.

Mr Agiru said DPE and Oil Search must rectify the problem and do proper land identification so that rightful landowners are looked after.

Police confirmed the incident yesterday, and said the protesters were only armed with bush knives.

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