PNG PM justifies mine takeover

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday denied a suggestion that he was trying to get his hands on Ok Tedi Mining Ltd because of a budget blowout.
He said the Government had already found the money to fund a deficit (that has been put at K2.65 billion). 
The Government was not desperate for cash and it had stopped PNGSDP chairman Sir Mekere Morauta from declaring dividends for 2012.
“I put a stop to that declaration,” he said told reporters yesterday when asked if the government was trying fund its budget deficit by expropriating the mine.
“Does that show that we are desperate to get money out of Ok Tedi mine ... grab hold of money to fund our deficit?
“We have stopped the declaration of dividends so that when we take over, it will not be broke.”
The dividends would be shared between PNGSDP and national government, he added.
Sir Mekere had said in a controversial statement on Monday that the Government was trying to “steal” the assets of the people of Western by expropriating the mine.
“The central claim that we are trying to expropriate Ok Tedi Mining is simply false and very, very misleading,” O’Neill said.
“This is coming from a person who held the position of prime minister. It is of concern that a person of his nature can make deliberately misleading statements to justify his own interests and his own issues.
“The people of PNG already own these assets, so how can you steal from yourself?
“The people of Western and PNG own the resources, own the mine, own the shares that were gifted by BHP, so how can you accuse people of stealing their own property?
“Sir Mekere is very much incapable of divorcing his vested interests, and personal interests in this matter,” O’Neill said.
“His claim is self-serving and a very deliberate attempt to mislead our people as he did in 2002 when he was prime minister.
“He misled the people, he gave immunity from prosecution to BHP for the huge environmental damage caused to the Fly River system.
“Of course, we all know that he has been rewarded with a very plum job of being chairman of PNGSDP, which in turns makes him ... chairman of OTML.
“He does not represent the people of PNG, he does not represent the people of Western.
“His interests are very clear – he represents foreign interests, he represents BHP. Sir Mekere needs to tell the people whose interests he is protecting.”
The prime minister said it was time for the Government and the people of Western to take over the operations of the mine as PNGSDP had failed to do its job.
“This is why we are now saying that after 10 years of continued mismanagement ... the PNG Government and the Western provincial government will play a direct role in management,” he said.

The National
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