Morobe Governor Saonu's fight on Wafi-Golpu Mine MOU Signing

On 11th December 2018, the State signed a so called “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Developers of the Wafi- Golpu Gold Mine in Morobe. The signing was publicized widely via print and electronic media including coverage on EMTV. As the Elected Governor of Morobe Province, I was notable absentee at the signing. This press statement calls upon those whose signature appear on the MOU to come forward and explain why Morobe Province was denied a potential of K4 Billion in revenue over the life of the mine.

Morobeans should be fully aware that their home Province of Morobe has been the centre of mining speculation and mining activity since the 1920s. Morobe is resource rich, endowed with minerals, forests, oceans, and above all its people. Over the years, foreign Companies have feasted on the natural resources that God Blessed the people of Morobe with. In the process, they have enriched themselves beyond imagination. But, when I look around me, I cannot see a legacy that tells me that the people, whose land and resources were exploited, have something to show for. As I complete 30 months in office as the Governor, I am very mindful of these historical facts about Morobe. I am also mindful of the unfortunate history of this Country; where the Government has misled and mismanaged negotiations with foreign entities to enjoy the kind of corporate and fiscal paradise that they would not expect to enjoy in other parts of the World. As the elected Governor and Member for Morobe, I assure the people of Morobe that under my watch that will not happen to your God given resources.

I along with Mining Minister Hon Johnson Tuke, refused to sign the MOU in Sydney Australia on 4th December 2018. The reasons we offered at that time still remain and I canvass them below. That the Hon Mining Minister saw fit to sign the MOU on behalf of the State on 11th December 2018 is a matter for him to answer. My own reasons for REFUSING to be a party to the MOU are these:
Upon a close scrutiny, the MOU is about the 30% State Equity option which the State purportedly exercised. The document is entitled Memorandum of Understanding, but the contents of the document make it clear that it is or should have been called Heads of Agreement (HOA). Because of the contents of the MOU (including the language used), despite the labelling of the document as an MOU, it nevertheless was binding in every respect. This remains true despite the denials by the State of the Developers.

On the afternoon of 4th December 2018, Hon Johnson Tuke (Mining Minister) and myself (in Sydney for the Mining Conference) were summoned to the Hotel Intercontinental in Sydney. At the Hotel, the Minister and I were requested by then, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to sign the MOU which until that moment, neither the Minister nor Me had seen, let alone understood the contents and/or its legal implications. It was a shock.

I refused to sign in Sydney on 4th December 2018. Among many reasons for my decision was that then Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at no time accorded any opportunity for Minister Tuke or myself, the opportunity to study it or seek independent legal advice upon. In front of 6-7 members from the Developer, the Prime Minister expected Mr Tuke and I to simply sign-off on it.

Those responsible for pushing the MOU were in such a rush that the burial of the Late Wife of the Governor General Sir Bob Dadae, was regarded as not a good enough reason to delay the signing until all protocols were accorded to the GG by Morobe Leaders. This is an insult to the Leaders of Morobe and the Queens Representative in the country. As a coincidence, the Late Lady Hannah comes from the Bulolo electorate. It is a matter of record that the Member for Bulolo Hon Sam Basil saw fit to sign the MOU as a witness in which Morobe was denied at least K4 Billion in potential revenue. But that is for him to explain to the people of Morobe.

Given the so called MOU related to the States 30% Equity Option, I have reasonable expectation that Morobe, being the host province, would be fully consulted in any proposed dealings regarding the States Equity. This expectation arose from MPGs Position on equity, because Morobe had expressed an interest to acquire 10-15 % out of the 30 % available to the State. This was conveyed in its Position Paper, hand delivered to the Former Prime Minister in person at the Crowne Plaza in Port Moresby in Mid-September 2018, 3 months before the MOU was signed.

The signed MOU doesn’t just ignore Morobe’s desire to acquire 10-15 % equity in Wafi-Golpu. By taking preemptive decisions, the MOU appears clearly to shut Morobe out of negotiations, despite what the Government may claim. The MOU has given back to the Developer and unnamed third parties, 10 % of the State share for unspecified reasons. The MOU proposes that of the remaining 20 %, the income from it would be shared with the developer on a 51:49 basis for the life of the Mine. There is no justification for this. When one looks closely at how this arrangement is framed, it has hall marks of Fraud!

The only proper manner of dealing with the States Equity issue is to have proper negotiations in which Morobe Province must be a party, not a by-stander. As Governor, I want the three impact districts of Bulolo, Huon and Lae to benefit in a substantial sense, not by lip service. I also want proper provisioning for the other 6 districts. The MOU signed by the Government did not offer Morobe Province any of these options and for those reasons, I filed the Court Proceedings…to protect my people of Morobe.

Meaningful participation means meaningful involvement in negotiations and discussions. That includes a fair share for the Morobe People. And if the people of Morobe seek a 10 % (or 50 % Stake) it is my duty as the Member for Morobe to fight for their rights.

I call on the Morobe people to look beyond the Court Case. Look at the selfish interests of certain elements of the State and joint venture partners contained in the MOU. The MOU was not an innocent non-binding agreement. It was an instrument which would have and still can deny the people of Morobe their God-Given right to participate meaningfully in a substantial sense in the Wafi-Golpu Project.
Tutumang is the Parliament and Voice of the people of Morobe. Tutumang rejected the MOU on 18th December 2018 and called upon the State and WGJV to voluntarily withdraw the MOU but they both refused in writing. Their refusal is what triggered the MOU legal proceedings.

I call on the Morobe people to stand by me. Support Me. There is plenty of evidence in this country already, that some leaders who are in power are stealing from you and it is happening all the time in this country. We Morobeans have had enough. Take TFF as an example. The Department of Education in PNG has mistreated the Children of Morobe by abusing the TFFE arrangements over the past three years despite an agreement signed with them. Morobe, the biggest province by population has fallen behind, all because contracts are being awarded to people and companies with no experience and no resources whatsoever to deliver TFFE to the children in our schools, ON TIME! This is continuing to happen as I release this statement. As an elected Leader of this Country I ask again, “When is this corruption and stealing from our people going to stop, when?”

For my fellow Parliamentarians and elected Leaders, when are we going to stop paying lip service? When are we going to truly fight for our people? When are we going to stop being selfish and thinking just for ourselves to be used by foreigners for their own ends? For example, can the Mining Minister and the Attorney General explain why they agreed to pay for the legal costs of the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture in the MOU Court Proceedings, when they were a signatory in the MOU? What is the justification for the taxpayers of this country paying their legal costs?

I call on the people of Morobe to wake up. Stop allowing our Leaders and their foreign counterparts to take your resources without just returns without just returns through fraudulent means including those dressed up agreements that look legal on the surface, but in actual fact are instruments of fraud. Open your eyes. If you don’t help me, at least help yourself by asking yourself these questions. I as Governor call on my people of Morobe to unite behind me and not allow any more exploitation of our resources.

To you, my people of Morobe, the 9 Members of Parliament, the 3 tribes of Babuaf, Yanta and Hengambu and the 33 LLG Presidents, now you know the truth of why I started the Court Case-OS JR 18 of 2019. It was never about delaying or stopping the mine. It was about preventing fraud upon about delaying or stopping the mine. It was about preventing fraud upon your resources, what God blessed you with and getting the best deal for the people of Morobe and PNG as a whole. That is what the fight is about.

Next :

PNG Petroleum Department Reveals K14 million Outstanding License Fees

Previous Post Next Post