“The forced sale means the Prime Minister has now admitted that he made a serious mistake,” says Kua.
“Right from the word ‘go’, the State had a statutory right to buy direct into the Elk/Antelope Gas project. It did not have to enter that project indirectly through Oil Search.
“The Prime Minister was advised of this and he knew it. Also there was no commercial case made out in indirectly through Oil Search Ltd and the Prime Minister was also advised of it.
“The result has been that despite our increased revenue thanks to the Somare Government’s gas project over the years, Papua New Guinea remains poor.
“While Oil Search can pay dividends to its shareholders, the O’Neill government cannot offer the equivalent to its people. This is a classic replay of oil rich countries like Nigeria who are yet to see the benefits of their oil and gas exports.”
Kua says to date, the O’Neill government has not come clean on the extent of the damage inflicted on the people of PNG by this UBS loan and its consequences on the country’s balance sheet.
“More glaring is the fact that we did not need to go through a private company like Oil Search to acquire shares in the Elk Antelope project. We could have acquired the shares directly.
“Also the price paid for only 10 percent was equally controversial from the start.”
Kua says as the Attorney General at the time, he advised O’Neill on two separate occasions not to proceed unilaterally with the Oil Search deal.
“I urged him to follow procedure and take the matter to parliament to obtain the Section 209 approval.
“Now that Mr O’Neill has decided to sell these shares, I urge once again the public prosecutor and the Ombudsman Commissioner to carry out your duties to the people of this country and set up the leadership tribunal to get some answers.
“The outstanding court cases concerning the Prime Minister’s referral to the Leadership Tribunal must be fast tracked.
“If you Constitutional Office holders cannot proceed in carrying out your mandated responsibilities then please step aside and allow people who are prepared to do the job take Mr O’Neill to task.
Kua further urged Members of Parliament to turn things around and stop this economic train wreck.
“Therefore, for the sake of our people, I urge MPs to move away from this recklessness.
“In five years’ time, where will our people be if you continue to support and prop up Mr O’Neill?”
However, in a recent response to Sir Mekere Morauta’s queries, the PM said the State’s investment in Oil Search was the right decision at the time as it helped maintain confidence in the oil and gas sector.
“This has been a business decision based on anticipated return on investment, and has delivered the most prudent outcome for the State considering the consequences of the earlier energy price lows,” clarifies PM O’Neill.
“Terminating the collar arrangement has resulted in a recovery of the remaining prepaid interest on the loan.
“The balance from this deal will likely be a K100 million gain for Papua New Guinea.”
(Loop file pic)