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Benefits Sharing Agreement talks off-limits to the press

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 26, 2009) – The Government has put a total ban on the media attending proceedings at the two-week Benefit Sharing Agreement Forum in Kokopo.

The official opening has now been stalled because the National Court in Port Moresby yesterday extended its orders in stopping the forum from starting.

Early last week the Department of Petroleum and Energy put out a media advise stating that all media organisations would only be allowed to attend the official opening and closing ceremonies including the signing of the BSA which was scheduled for May 8. "All media are only invited to the opening of the LNG Umbrella Benefit Sharing Agreement and the closing or signing of the BSA," a notice from the Petroleum and Energy Department circulated last week said.

"Media must take note that there will be a total media ban during the course of the development forum. Media is not invited to cover any of the development forum proceedings."

When asked why, the department said: "There will be a total media ban on the BSA development forum in Kokopo because there will be some very sensitive issues discussed so media will not be allowed accept for the official opening tomorrow (Friday) and the closing on May 8th." Meanwhile the economy of ENB has been boosted with the arrival of more than 500 landowners, state ministers and other government officials.

Other state ministers and government officials are expected to arrive today.

However, with the pending court injunction they may not arrive at all.

All hotels, lodges and resorts in the province have been booked out including all hire cars.

Due to the large number of visitors, some have now looked for accommodation elsewhere by renting out residential properties for the duration of the forum and hiring Public Motor Vehicle buses to get them round.

Some of the Government Ministers already in the province include Justice Minister Dr Allan Marat, Minister for Fisheries Ben Semri, Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, Minister for Works Transport and Civil Aviation Don Polye, Minister for Public Enterprise Arthur Somare, Minister for Commerce and Industry Peter O’Neill, Minister for Finance and Treasury Patrick Pruaitch and Minister for Forestry Belden Namah and their secretaries and departmental heads.

The other economic ministers including Minister for Petroleum and Energy William Duma will be arriving in the province today before the official opening of the forum. Also present is former deputy Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei, believed to be supporting the Boera landowner group from the Central Province.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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