8 Jun 2010

Lawyer challenges new PNG Environment Act

3:30 pm on 8 June 2010

Landowners near the Ramu nickel project in Madang in Papua New Guinea are challenging the constitutionality of the Government's controversial amendments to the Environment and Conservation Act.

The measure was rushed through Parliament at the end of May and the Opposition, environmental groups and other NGOs say it curtails landowners' legal rights.

The Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has dismissed the criticism saying people are misinterpreting the legislation.

But our correspondent, Oseah Philemon, says the lawyer for the landowners has taken the issue to the Supreme Court.

He says their lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr, has called on the Prime Minister to read the legislation to learn what it really means.

"What it actually means is that the Director of Environment has the power to allow developers basically to do what they want. If there is environmental damage he just waves it through and landowners have no say whatsoever. There is no recourse for them. The landowners lawyers are saying that this is against the constitution, that the landowners are being denied natural justice, that they are being denied their right to go to the court and seek redress."