OFFICE OF THE OPPOSITION LEADER
22 April 2019
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill should stop futile attempts to derail social and economic development programs sponsored by PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd in Western Province, Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said today.
Mr Pruaitch said he fully supported the united call by all Western Province Members of Parliament, including WP Governor Taboi Awi Yoto, who said the recent Singapore High Court decision should prevent PNGSDP from coming under political interference or outside control.
The joint letter from the MPs was also signed by the Minister for Correctional Services, Middle Fly MP Roy Biyama, South Fly MP Sekie Agisa and North Fly MP James Donald.
Mr Pruaitch said “When BHP Billiton exited the Ok Tedi mining project almost two decades ago it gifted its 52% equity stake to PNGSDP as a vehicle to promote economic development and mitigate against the impacts of anticipated mine closure in Western Province.”
“PNGSDP is a model entity that operates like a sovereign wealth fund. It has done an excellent job in nurturing its long-term fund which now stands at over K4 billion.”
“PNGSDP has been transparent in its operations and has published fully audited annual reports since its establishment in 2002. Its annual reports can be viewed on the PNGSDP website and the latest, for 2017, showed the long-term fund has grown by a credible 7% in 2017 to US$1.4 billion.”
“Prime Minister O’Neill has been wanting to get his hands on these funds, having borrowed almost K20 billion on top of the record revenues that have flowed into government coffers since Mr O’Neill came into office.”
“Following Government expropriation of the PNGSDP stake in Ok Tedi, Mr O’Neill began a court case in Singapore to gain control, and squander, long-term funds held by PNGSDP.
“The Singapore High Court judge in the case, Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy, said the O’Neill Government had failed to prove that it controlled a charitable trust that entitled the state to intervene and control PNGSDP.”
“This is a blatant money grab by Mr O’Neill who has spent millions in public funds to pursue this case in Singapore.”
“The people of Western Province have spoken through their Governor and their three MPs. They are happy with the mandate given to PNGSDP and Mr O’Neill should stop his nefarious attempts to raid this model organisation.”
Although PNGSDP only uses interest income and dividends from its Long-Term Fund, the following activities in Western Province were implemented in 2017:
- K10 million in educational grants given to every school in Western Province, covering Elementary to Grade 12;
- 6 million was spent with Digicel to repair and upgrade the telecommunications network so almost everyone in the province now can access 4G phone and internet services;
- K20 million was spent to upgrade facilities in 35 schools and additional classrooms have been built in eight schools;
- Work has begun to rehabilitate the Western Province rubber industry and the barramundi hatchery in Daru, which will act as a nucleus for smallholder fish farming;
- 75 rural airstrips are being made operational and innovative medical services are being delivered in conjunction Missionary Aviation Fellowship as well as other Non-Governmental Organisations.
Mr Pruaitch said he concurred with the view of the four Western Province MPs that the Prime Minister should stop attacking PNGSDP and work with that organisation and the Provincial Government “to ensure that the interest income from the Long-Term Fund is spent to achieve development and change in Western Province.