PM O’Neill expresses concern at Mekere’s legal tactics on PNGSDP

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill , has expressed concern at the legal tactics used by Sir Mekere Morauta to hijack proceedings in the trial against the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd (SDP) in Singapore this month.

O’Neill in a statement said the delaying tactics are just another way for Sir Mekere to try and keep his hands on the money of the people of Western Province for a little while longer, but his efforts will ultimately fail.

“It appears that Sir Mekere has cunningly established a retirement fund out of the money that belongs to the people of Western Province, and he is desperate to keep this,” he said.

“He would like to have access to this money for the rest of his life.

“We see that funds continue to be drawn down for global travel, high priced consultants, legal fees, board fees and newspaper advertising.”

O’Neill said the total assets of the PNG SDP are in excess of US$1.34 billion, (K4b) which is a drop from US$1.5 billion at the time Sir Mekere and his cronies sought to take control of PNGSDP.

“That means there is US$160 million, or half a billion Kina has vanished without proper explanation.

“That money should have been spent on healthcare and development projects in Western province.”

O’Neill further reiterated that all PNG SDP developmental projects and programs ceased in October 2013, but they continue to spend money on other things.

“Sir Mekere Morauta and the Board of the PNG SDP have no mandate from the people of Western Province and Papua New Guinea to continue to hold onto these funds.

“People are dying each day from preventable diseases as Mekere and his cohorts continue to hold onto these funds in Singapore that should be spent on people’s welfare.

“The Government is looking at options for pursuing contempt and criminal charges against all directors of PNGSDP in the courts of Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Australia.”

Fact sheet

The trial of the State’s claim against PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd (“PNGSDP”) in the Singapore Courts was scheduled to take place from 4 to 28 October 2016.

In the evening of 3 October 2016, the day before the trial was scheduled to commence, PNGSDP served the State’s solicitors with documents in an attempt to overload the State and its witnesses at trial.

The State highlighted this to the Singapore High Court, and consequently, PNGSDP was ordered to provide further disclosure of documents and to pay costs to the State.

The State’s case will be represented to the court upon resumption and restates that there was an agreement reached between the State, BHP Billiton and PNGSDP on the terms of BHP’s exit from the Ok Tedi Mine in late 2001, which PNGSDP has breached.

The State has attempted in good faith to make its position even clearer, in light of PNGSDP’s claims of “inconsistency”, but PNGSDP sought to resist this by raising technical arguments, which has only served to delay the adjudication of the matter.

As the State has a pending application before the Singapore Court of Appeal on this issue, it will not comment further. The State will, however, raise the issues of PNGSDP’s conduct before the Singapore Courts at the appropriate juncture.

It has always been the State’s wish for this matter to be resolved as soon as possible so that the assets currently held by PNGSDP can finally be given to the people of Western Province as originally intended.

Indeed, the delayed trial, and the continued actions by Sir Mekere and his associates to prevent the matter from being heard, are at the expense of the People who continue to suffer.

Given what is at stake, the State takes this matter very seriously, and will take all possible steps to ensure that the trial will be heard as soon as possible.

The State remains confident of its claim against PNGSDP, and will continue to pursue the same steadfastly and ensure that the interests of the People of Papua New Guinea and the Western Province are safeguarded.

Press statement