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Claims that legal procedures not followed

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 20, 2009) – One of the last tracts of pristine forest area between the Central and Gulf provinces is about to be logged by a Malaysian developer Albright PNG Limited despite the climate change threat.

This had alarmed both Mekeo and Gulf landowners who said last week they were not party to the granting of the special agriculture and business lease.

The area covers 116,400 hectares that spread from North Mekeo near the Goilala border and to the Gulf Province including the Kurai ranges and is known for its richness in biodiversity.

A concerned group of landowners led by two former premiers (governors) of the Central and Gulf provinces, Paul Kipo and Paul Apio and two landowner group chairman Roger Kipo and Joseph Manabi said they were shocked and upset at the government’s decision to grant a special agricultural and business lease of the portion of land 45C Omeri/Yule to Mekeo Hinterland Holding.

They said they only became aware of the land being given away for development when they enquired although they are traditional landowners.

The landowners claimed the chairman of the Mekeo Hinterland Holding Limited is the Deputy Governor of Central Province and the Member for Goilala and National Alliance MP Mathew Poia.

They are concerned that the government has agreed to the logging/agricultural project despite its emphasis to promote conservation and carbon trading and despite the threat to disasters related to climate change.

Mr. Apio has urged the Ombudsman Commission to probe the awarding of the special agricultural and business lease of the land in question.

Apio questioned Deputy Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu’s involvement as Lands Minister in awarding the lease and land to the Malaysian developer Albright PNG Limited.

Kipo claimed the acquisition of the lease was not through proper process therefore illegal. He further claimed the land investigation process was not followed.

Dr Puka Temu when asked to comment yesterday said proper procedures had been followed and it is the right of the landowners to take the matter to court if their felt otherwise.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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