By Andrew Hobbs
PAPUA New Guinea Attorney General Ano Pala has called on the head of the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) to “accept transparency” following a decision by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The decision, handed down in early May, was that ICSID was unable to hear an appeal put to it earlier this year by the PNGSDP.
This was on the grounds that the PNG Government had not explicitly consented in writing to the Centre, and its Tribunal, providing arbitration services between the two groups.
The arbitration centres around the government’s move to assume complete control of the 63 per cent stake in the Ok Tedi mine held by the PNGSDP in late 2013.
The PNGSDP had hoped to appeal to ICSID for either the return of the stake or what it considered adequate financial restitution.
It had had a slight win earlier this year, when the Tribunal ordered the PNG Government not to make any moves regarding the ownership of Ok Tedi Mines (OTML), or to restructure the PNGSDP.
These orders have since lapsed in light of this new decision.
Mr Pala said the decision meant the head of the PNGSDP, Sir Mekere Morauta, should step back from further disputes of the decision.
“Sir Mekere must accept the decision of the tribunal and stop wasting the people’s money,” he said.
“These are funds that should be used for the benefit and welfare of the people of Western Province, not to finance administrative, operational and legal costs.”
“The Government of Papua New Guinea will continue to seek transparency and obtain information on what has happened to millions of Kina of PNGSDP assets,” he said.
In a statement, Sir Mekere said the PNGSDP was now examining what other options were available to it.
“The company is disappointed that ICSID did not want to hear the case,” he said.
“However there are other legal avenues open to us and we have already been discussing them in detail.”
Sir Mekere said the directors and management of PNGSDP had an obligation to protect company assets and income.
“That is precisely what we will continue to do,” he said.
“In particular we will also continue to protect the money in the Long Term Fund and the structure, independence and integrity of PNGSDP.”
“In doing that the company believes it is acting in the best interest of the people of Western Province who have for 12 years been very significant beneficiaries of PNGSDP’s social and economic development program and will continue to benefit for at least 40 years after the mine closure.”
For his part, Mr Pala reiterated a government plan to ensure the free transfer of a 33% stake in OTML to the people of Western Province.
The government has queried whether PNGSDP was properly using its assets to advance the welfare of the PNG people, as it was mandated to do.
A case before the High Court of Singapore, which covers the removal of the PNGSDP board, is continuing.