PNG to appeal Singapore ruling

1:08 pm on 9 April 2019

The Papua New Guinea government will appeal a decision of Singapore's High Court to lock it out of a PNG company with assets worth about $US1.4 billion.

Last week, the court ruled that the government had "failed entirely" in its claim over the Singapore-registered PNG Sustainable Development Program (SDP).

PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told The National newspaper on Monday that he would appoint a commission of inquiry into the company to "establish the facts".

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Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Because Justice Vinodh acknowledged the government had an arguable case, he would also launch an appeal, Mr O'Neill said.

SDP was established in 2001 when BHP Billiton divested its majority share in the lucrative Ok Tedi copper mine in Western Province to SDP.

The divestment followed legal action by Western Province landowners over extensive and long lasting environmental damage caused by the mine operations, particularly its riverine tailings disposal system.

In 2013, the government expropriated Ok Tedi Mining Ltd from the SDP, and sought control of the SDP's long-term fund for the province parked in Singapore.

However, the former PNG prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, who is a member of the SDP board, said the long-term fund was invested overseas, by law, to protect it from unscrupulous people, including politicians.

The company's funds should be given to the people of Western province, Mr O'Neill said.

But PNG commentator Martin Namorong said it was not always well publicised that SDP had contributed significantly to development in the province.