Australia’s Public Money Should Not Enrich Land Grabbers in Papua New Guinea

We are deeply concerned that Australian public money is ensuring that the Leaders’ meetings at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in 2018 will take place at the controversial Paga Hill land grabbing project in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Holding the APEC 2018 summit at Paga Hill will further reward and enrich the land grabbers. In meeting at Paga Hill APEC will legitimise the flagrant disregard of fundamental human rights for local communities.

In September the PNG-based APEC 2018 Coordination Authority produced a map of APEC ‘precincts’, showing the APEC leaders meeting will be held at Paga Hill. See the ‘AELM Precinct’ in image below:

Image published by Business Advantage PNG

Leaders are to sleep on cruise ships moored in the harbour, and meet on land, that for decades, had been home to thousands of impoverished families, forcibly evicted in 2014 to make way for this ‘world-class master planned estate’.

After it was reported that Australia is to provide up to $100 million in assistance for the APEC meeting, AID/WATCH wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, requesting detail on the APEC funding package – and in particular, whether Australia is financing the development of the Paga Hill site, including the ring road being built by Australian-owned company Curtain Brothers.

In response, Diane Barclay, Director PNG Economic and Private Sector Section, stated that no Australian government money has been provided for programs or activities related to the Paga Hill site. However, she did disclose that the following is being provided for APEC:

  • $48.2m for 53 Australian Federal Police to engage in ‘capacity-building activities’ for the event ($31.7m classified as ‘Overseas Development Assistance’, ODA)
  • $25m in ODA for ‘capability improvements’ that will ‘help PNG’s policy and security preparations for APEC’; and
  • The ADF will ‘augment PNGs high-end defence capabilities’.

Close to $75m is committed, $50m of this being ’development assistance’, for a meeting of 20 Asia-Pacific government leaders, including President Trump. Global summits should not be bankrolled by development aid – this is a gross misuse of precious aid money. It is also deeply offensive that the event, and Australian backing for it, will deliver a windfall for the Paga Hill company.

What is the Paga Hill Estate Project?

There are concerns that serious human rights abuses, and allegations of transnational corruption, have occurred in the brutal eviction and social cleansing of around 3,000 people from the Paga Hill settlement, as well as National Housing Corporation communities in the area that have resided there for several decades.

According to the International State Crime Initiative, none of the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement were followed. Reports show that threats of violence (including kicking, punching, hitting and cutting with machetes) were used to force residents to demolish their own homes. A significant number of Paga Hill residents are still displaced and their grievances have not been resolved.

Despite the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) claiming that they have “legitimacy” to the title, the Public Accounts Committee report into the Department of Lands and Physical Planning labelled the land deal underpinning the development as ‘corrupt’. Furthermore, the International State Crime Initiative claims that senior executives involved in the PHDC have been censured in three Commission of Inquiry reports, four Public Accounts Committee reports, and two Auditor General Reports.

In her recent statement and report on the financialisation of housing to the Human Rights Council on 1 March 2017, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha has called for a paradigm shift in which housing is recognised as a fundamental human right rather than as a commodity, that there is an end to violent evictions, and due process, alternative accommodation and compensation is ensured for communities.

Australian public money should not be used to enhance the value of the investment by PHDC and Australian-owned Curtain Brothers in Papua New Guinea, doing so only rewards land-grabbing while gross human rights violations against local communities go unresolved.

WE CALL ON THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT TO HALT SUPPORT FOR APEC 2018 UNTIL THE PAGA HILL COMMUNITY HAS BEEN RIGHTFULLY ACCOMMODATED AND COMPENSATED.

 

SIGN OUR PETITION TO HELP SEEK JUSTICE FOR THE PAGA HILL COMMUNITY