By Theckla Gunga, Port Moresby
A 69-year-old clan leader has been elected as one of the directors who will be responsible for the distribution of royalty payments from the PNG LNG project.
Telabe Babena was elected today will represent resource owners in Moro, Southern Highlands province. The voting of directors for the different clans, identified through the Landowner Beneficiaries Identification exercise is part of the process leading to the release of royalty payments for the multi-billion kina LNG project.
The voting was completed in less than 30 minutes. But it took four weeks of awareness and consultation to reach this stage.
Managing Director for Mineral Resources Authority, Augustine Mano thanked all landowners including representatives from Electoral Commission, Oil Search Limited and the Petroleum Department for the completion of voting a director.
“After all four directors are voted; we will meet with three provincial governors from Gulf, Hela and Southern Highlands to elect a chairman for landowners at the plant site, “Mano said.
In the process, 58 bank accounts were opened in preparation for the release of several millions of kina in royalty payments.
Five candidates were nominated on Tuesday and after the voting today, Talabe Babena, was elected as director for the 10 major clans in Moro, particularly landowners along the LNG pipeline.
His declaration was announced by Electoral Commission Returning Officer, Kala Rawali in the presence of 20 clan chairmen.
The ministerial statement signed in March by the Petroleum Minister, Fabian Pok, in Hela, said the directors will be responsible for managing payments released through MRDC.
It is a crucial responsibly and Babena publicly announced that he will perform that task with dignity.
It has taken 10 years to complete the Clan Vetting Exercise which paved way for royalty payments. But after 10 long years of continuous land disputes and court battles, the land owners are one step closer to receiving their royalty payments.
A similar election will be conducted for landowners of PDL 1 and 7 and in Angore in the neighboring Hela province.