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Papua New Guinea Commerce and Industry Minister William Duma denies that he received millions of dollars from Australia’s Horizon Oil Company and that he will be suing the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reporter for defamation.
“The allegations levelled against me by AFR are all based on half-truths, assumptions and highly defamatory,” he added.
The AFR report linked Duma to the “Horizon Scandal”, alleging that the company had ignored “corruption warnings” and paid a shell company US$10.3 million (K35 million) 10 years ago (when Duma was the Petroleum and Energy Minister).
Duma said he had only acted on the recommendation of the Petroleum Advisory Board (PAB), the advice of his lawyers and complied with the Order of the Supreme Court.
“People must understand that under the Oil and Gas Act 1998 the minister only acts upon the recommendations of the PAB when granting Petroleum Prospecting Licence (PPL), Petroleum Retention Licence (PRL) and Petroleum Development Licence (PDL).
“The PRL 5 for Stanley Gas Field was held by two Australian Companies, Santos Exploration Ltd and Horizon Oil Ltd.
“Due to the failure and delay by these two companies to develop the gas field for 10 years, the PAB on June 9, 2010, recommended that the PRL not to be extended.
“Based upon the advice of the PAB, I issued a notice to show cause to Santos and the Horizon.
“After having received their responses and based on the PAB advice, I refused to extend the three licences for a third term because they had held the licences for 10 years but failed to develop the gas field,” he added.
Duma said the PAB then placed PRL 5 on tender, Horizon, Dabajodi International and Elavala Energy were among the companies that bid for the tender.
“While the tender was in process, Horizon applied to the National Court for a judicial review challenging my decision and also asked for a restraining order.
“The then Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, ruled that I acted properly and correctly and refused to grant leave and to grant an injunction to Horizon.
“Horizon then appealed to the Supreme Court and successfully obtained a restraining order against myself, the State, and PAB members of the PAB from assessing the tender applications until the outcome of the Supreme Court.
The PAB then recommended that to avoid further lengthy delays, the Supreme Court case should be settled,” he added.
“My lawyers also advised that it would be prudent for me to settle the case.
“After having received legal advice and after being ordered by the Supreme Court, I referred the matter back to the PAB who then finalised the settlement terms,” Duma said.
He said the Supreme Court, amongst other things, ordered that “I, as well as each PAB member, take steps to ensure that a PRL was issued.
“I had no choice but to comply with the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court and offered the new PRL 21 to Horizon, Dabajodi and Elavala”.
Duma said: “I did not break any laws and followed the proper process.
“I followed the process provided by the Oil and Gas Act, and acted upon the recommendations of the PAB.
“Even the National Court found at that time that I had followed due process and was fair in my decision.
“The Australian press does not understand that under our laws, the minister only acts upon the recommendation of the PAB.”
Duma said he was seeking the advice of a leading Australian defamation lawyer to sue AFR for defamation.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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