State has major setbacks to gain control of PNGSDP: Sir Mekere

Recent hearings in Singapore Courts on the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Programme (PNGSDP) have put the spotlight on the disarray in the State’s attack.

The chairman of PNGSDP Sir Mekere Morauta said the State has had a major setback in its three-year effort to gain control of PNGSDP and the Long Term Fund.

He added that because the State is on the back foot, it has now resorted to contrived twists and turns to delay the inevitable.

“I am increasingly confident that our lawyers will deliver the “knockout” blow that will lead to a favourable court decision.

“This means PNGSDP will then be able to get on with its core role of delivering sustainable development projects in the Western Province and PNG generally.”

On September 6, 2016 - about a month before the trial was to begin, Singapore’s highest Court, the Court of Appeal set aside the Judgment dated February 12, 2016 which the State had earlier obtained, allowing PNGSDP’s appeal on the Judgment on its foremost objection, that the matters in dispute had to be resolved by a trial.

The State had itself, earlier appealed against portions of that Judgment that were not in its favour, and at the hearing on September 6, withdrew their appeal.

During the course of the hearing, the State was also pressed on the glaring inconsistencies between the case that it was running in the main Suit and in those related proceedings in which it had earlier obtained Judgment.

“It was only in late September that the State then sought to amend its case in the main suit, purportedly in an attempt to resolve the inconsistencies.

“However, its piecemeal and inadequate attempt to resolve fundamental contradictions between its respective cases, was dismissed by the Court on 30 September 2016,” says Sir Mekere.

The day before the trial was due to begin on October 4, the State again attempted to change its pleadings - how it presents its case. 

The State’s case rests on the existence of some fictitious verbal agreement that is supposed to give the State control over PNGSDP.

Now some two years on, the State has decided to abandon their original case.

The State now claims that there is instead, a different supposed verbal agreement that it wants to pin its case to.

Sir Mekere said instead of clarifying their proposed amendments as requested by the judge, the State insisted on sticking to their application in its original form.

“After due consideration, the judge dismissed that application and awarded costs to PNGSDP.

“The awarding of costs provides a good indication of the winner,” he said.

The State then sought permission to appeal the judge’s decision, a course of action that would inevitably lead to further delays.

The judge refused to grant the permission and again ordered that the State pay PNGSDP’s costs of that application.

Sir Mekere said because of these self-inflicted delays, the State then applied to defer the trial.

“Because of the crowded court schedule this fait accompli probably means a substantial delay to next year.

“Again the judge ordered that the State compensate PNGSDP for the costs wasted by the deferment.”

He said during the course of these legal skirmishes, it has become abundantly clear that the State’s tactics in mounting their inherently weak case are based on creating confusion in order to delay a judgment and outcome.

“This will not get the State very far,” says Sir Mekere

Freddy Mou