PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 7, 2010) – There’s a lot of muddy waters in the debate after the Government’s ramming job on amendments to the environment laws of the country.

Landowners immediately condemned the amendments when they were rushed through Parliament as the last business before the House rose to end the sitting.

Members were caught unaware.

The Government used its majority numbers to slip the matter through quickly and without much debate. It was obvious that the catalyst for the amendments was the legal abyss trapping the Ramu nickel project in Madang Province. Certainly the Government would also have had an eye for future problems with the liquefied natural gas projects also. But the Government while mastering in strategy on the floor of Parliament, flunked the course on human relations with a minor in public relations.

People upset about dumping millions of tons of waste into the ocean nearby were stunned by amendments that appeared to take the Ramu nickel environment issue away from the neutral, independent hands of the judges and put it into the hands of politically influenced public servants.

Naturally, they erupted in anger. The effect of the amendments appears to be that once the environment approval is given, there will be no comeback for the landowners. And people were not sure as to what safeguards will be there to ensure that the landowners’ wellbeing is provided for.

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said public reaction to the legislative changes had been "confused and misinterpreted." He said: "No landowner rights have been curtailed by the introduction of this recent amendment to the Environment Act of 2000. Project developers must still comply with PNG’s strict environment regulations before permits can be issued by the Department of Environment. This rigorous process of compliance safeguards in the first instance the interest of landowners, their land and the environment."

He urged people to read and understand legislation before issuing "misleading statements that cause unnecessary anxiety.

Good to hear PM: But where are the government spokesmen to spell out the procedures in simple English. It hasn’t been done!

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