By HILDEGARD F GANAK
UPNG Journalism Student
HELOUKA Loura landowners form the Vailala Purari area in Gulf are now calling upon the Minister for Petroleum and Energy to meet with them to formally discuss issues in regard of the Elk-Antelope project and other projects within their area.
Robin Lavuru, chairman of the Helouka Loura Land Association said his people the Ahia people are traditional landowners of the Wabo Area where the Elk and Antelope projects are located. He however claims DPE and InterOil have so far not included them in any Benefit Sharing Agreements (BSA's).
"The Governor of Gulf, DPE and InterOil only recognizes the Pawaea people who are currently settling on our traditional land and not us the traditional owners", said Mr. Lavuru. He said the Ahia people therefore want Minister Duma and their governor and other parties involved to meet at a given time to address this problem. He also said Minister Duma and the Governor of Gulf must clearly explain their benefits as traditional landowners.
In a letter submitted to Minister Duma, the Helouka Loura landowners made it clear that they are aware of other projects that are likely to commence in their area such as the Wabo hydro power project. The chairman Mr Lavuru wrote, "I am not naïve nor are we fools for we are mindful of the impact the Elk-Antelope will have on the lives of the Ahia people.
We have suffered much at the hands of Frontier Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of RH Group of companies for over 10 years of alleged illegal logging in the Vailala Purari timber project area with no real tangible development in place." He said learning from the Exxon Mobil led project in Southern Highlands, the Ahia people wish to avoid such activities and events at all costs.
Mr. Lavuru said the Ahia people therefore seek immediate attention to their demands which include the involvement of the Ahia and Ihu people in the consultative decision making, planning and the implementation of activities in the huge Elk-Antelope gas/oil project.
He said they also want all land ownership claims involving the Elk-Antelope project be properly identified and land boundary demarcation done between the Ahias, Pawaeas and the Iares of Baimuru. They further called for an increase in share equity for landowners as the current 2.5 percent is seen to be inadequate.