The four (4) Engan MPs representing Lagaip-Porgera, Wapenamanda, Kompiam Ambum and Kandep have today, on behalf of the Enga people, reiterated their joint call for an independent commission of inquiry into proceeds from the Porgera Mine over the last 30 years to Enga Provincial Government.
The Engan MPs, all accomplished professionals, raised questions about substantive revenue loss and its impact arising from and closure of Porgera Mine when global gold prices were at their premium. In response to their collective statement of concern, the Governor of Enga Province, Sir Peter Ipatas, responded with derogatory and insulting comments, failing to address the substance of their complaint.
“The four of us: Lagaip-Porgera MP Hon Tomait Kapili, Kandep MP Hon Alfred Manase, Kompiam-Ambum MP, Hon Sir John Pundari and Wapenamanda MP Hon Rimbink Pato condemn without reservation Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas’ statement reported in the 30th November edition of The National newspaper” [at page 9].
The Governor had called the Honourable Members ‘small boys’, stating that they should not ‘question his leadership’, essentially wantonly dismissing their legitimate concerns.
“This name-calling and demeaning utterance calls into question Governor Ipatas’ leadership as being childish, irresponsible and it likely constitutes defamation” the MPs said.
“We are not small boys; we are educated, mandated leaders of four Electorates of Enga Province”.
“Sir John Pundari has been in Parliament for 25 years; he’s an experienced businessman, having been in full employment before contesting the elections – also properly qualified as a business manager.”
“Hon. Rimbink Pato has been in Parliament for ten years following a highly successful career as an expert constitutional lawyer, as well as other business and management pursuits.”
Pato went on to excel as Papua New Guinea’s longest-ever serving Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, a role that since the Prime Ministership of Hon James Marape has been held by three individuals.
“Manase and Kapili are first-termers but are all well-educated with relevant qualifications and experience and in possession of the skills necessary to contribute to nation-building in the development of Enga province and PNG”, the leaders said.
“We reiterate that we are not young children but experienced professionals in business, finance management and legal practice who have been duly mandated by our respective constituents to represent our districts and people,” the four MPs added.
“We are simply seeking the truth for our people; to provide for accountability and transparency of the receipt of all the substantial incomes both in dividends and royalties as well as tax credits received over the 30-year lifetime of mine operations.”
“We have a responsibility to our people in throughout Enga Province to ensure they know where the money has gone. If it has been invested properly for the people, they must know through us. Governor Ipatas should have nothing to fear by releasing such information he can prove also to his people that the money has been properly spent. If he is not willing to release the funds, then one must question why.”
“Accordingly, a proper and independent inquiry for example a Commission of Inquiry should be instituted by the incoming Government to examine the mine’s operations over the last 30 years and the income generated by it. We know that this is what our people want to see”, the Members said.
“Moving forward, based on these findings by a Commission of Inquiry, we want existing structures changed to ensure direct and greater benefits to SML landowners as well as the five (5) districts of Enga Province, which was offered before the Government refused to renew the SML.”
The Engan Leaders also added: “We are concerned about the state of the economy where many decisions have been made on an apparently wishy-washy basis. The Marape Government, an Ipatas aligned Government, has made decisions that lack clear understanding of the local situation, and require proper consideration.”
The Members’ statement is made in the context of the ongoing worldwide pandemic which has caused extreme economic recession throughout the world.
“The closure of the Porgera Mine resulted in the loss of 3500 jobs, loss of revenue including taxes for the National Government, loss of income for contractors and subcontractors, and general impact on livelihood for our people who have no alternatives”, the MPs said.
“This unfortunate impasse and closure of the Porgera Gold Mine happened when gold prices were at a premium globally. It does not make economic, political, social or any other sense to close the mine.”
“The losses in revenue – not just to the National Government and PNG generally – but direct losses in royalties and dividends directly to the Enga Provincial Government for re-distribution to the peoples of Enga is a big concern for us”, the leaders said.
“This is about improving the condition of our people and securing funding for meaningful, quality infrastructure throughout the Province.”
“PNG is no longer an isolated land comprised of many discrete tribes”, former Foreign Minister Pato said.
“I know from my experience travelling to other nations and in my consultations with other Governments and leaders that there is now a very different view of PNG and her place in the world: we are a mature nation, a united country, and we can do much better.”
“It is time that leaders were held accountable to their constituents and this is exactly what we are seeking with the Porgera mine in Enga Province. The Enga Provincial Government must be accountable to the people of Enga” he added.