Press Release – 27/12/13

Establishment ofCustomary Land Authority/Commission.

The Resource Owners Federation of Papua New Guinea calls on the Prime Minister and his government to enact a new Customary Land Administration Act to be administered by a new institution called the Customary Land Administration Commission.

The Federation does not support the current Legislations such as the Incorporated Land Groups (ILG) Act, the Customary Land Administration Act of 1996, as these Acts were drawn up or amended overtime with the influence of Business and Industry Groups for their own interests rather than to protect the interest of the customary landowners. For example: The current ILG Act prohibits a landowner from being registered in more than one ILG. This is contrary to the customary laws of Papua New Guinea, where a person may have matrilineal, patrilineal and marital land claims. In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, a person may have land claims through eight or more of his parents and grandparents. The prohibition ensures that such a person forever loses their other land claims.

The Mining and Petroleum Act permits the compulsory acquisition of customary lands for Mining or petroleum developments on the basis that a mining or petroleum project in question is a public purpose. This is nothing more than a misuse of the words “Public Purpose” by the State and the Mining and Petroleum industries to steal customary lands.  Mining and Petroleum project developers are companies owned by private shareholders. These projects are developed by these companies for the benefit of their shareholders and not the general public.  Public purpose projects are projects such public roads, public airports, electicity transmission lines and such other projects that benefit the public at large rather than a few shareholders.

The consequence of Business and Industry Group’s greed and unfair treatment of customary landowners have been many, including the marginalisation of landowner interests as found by the recent commission of Inquiry into SBALS in the country. The controversy over the OK Tedi mine started with landowners suing the Mining Company over their marginalisation by the destruction of their environment which was the source of their livelihood. The Bougainville war and the closure of the mighty Panguna copper mine resulted from the marginalisation of landowners.

Some people will blame the colonial Administration for these legislations, but on comparison of the same laws enacted by the colonial Administration, one would find that the colonial Administration was more protective of the indigenous peoples land rights than the legislations enacted by the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. If there were any injustices of the Colonial Administration, the Independent state did not correct them but made them worse at the behest and influences of the business and Industry lobby groups leading to the Bougainville war, Ok Tedi controversy, Mt.Kare burn out and others. In order for PNG to become a proper capitalist economy, it must first acknowledge the wrongs of the past, and make new tracks for the future.

In that regard, the Federation recommends that the O Neill government establish a new entity called the Customary Land Administration Commission, whose duty will be to independently administer a customary land Administration Act that protects the landownership rights of the customary landowners.  All businesses or industry including Mining, forestry, fisheries , Agriculture and others who want to conduct business on Customary land  can do so in a properly regulated environment, that does not marginalize but benefits the customary landowners and at the same time provide security of tenure for business and Industry.




Jonathan Paraia


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