Discussion with Hides landowners hit a droop

After a whole day's talk yesterday, agreements have been reached to send another technical team from the Department of Petroleum and Energy to Hides tomorrow to meet again with the landowners.

The discussion will be on how best the process of accessing their royalties and the 2 per cent free carry equity can be fast tracked.

This is after negotiations yesterday reached a dead end with landowners taking a concrete stand on their demands that their outstanding LBBSA and UBBSA commitments be paid as well.

After a whole day of discussions which turned rowdy at some stage, Minister for Petroleum and Energy Nixon Duban and Finance Minister James Marape put forward the option of meeting again with the landowners after parliament sitting next week.

This still did not go down well with them as Larry Andagali called for this timeframe to be shortened to which the ministers agreed to send another team from DPE tomorrow.

The discussions then will be to talk to the landowners on the process involved in accessing their payments, the different court orders that's preventing the state from making any payments and the importance of completing clan vetting before a final ministerial determination is made for the royalties and the free carry equities to be paid.

These monies are currently being held in a trust account at the Central Bank and at MRDC respectively.

Landowners were assured that their monies are safe and will only be paid once the clan vetting process is complete.

Duban even raised the option to pay landowners in the "Brown Fields", that's those along the pipeline and Portion 152 next week so landowners from Hides can prove that their monies are there and have not being used as collateral or tied to loans overseas as widely speculated.

However, Marape asked Duban to withhold funds for these areas and payments made first to the "Green Field" areas - these are the areas where the well pads are located including the Hides conditioning plant.

Meantime, Chief Secertary to the government, Isaac Lupari was satisfied with the trip saying the government achieved its purpose by informing landowners of factual information.

He was concerned that people with political interests were influencing landowners with false information and was satisfied that they got to communicate directly to the people about their royalties and equities.

Ruth Rungula