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22 March 2016

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That is a fair assessment Paul. Its a sad situation alright.

I suppose what disappointed those of us who have worked with the displaced community, and witnessed their suffering first hand, is the context in which Dame Kidu assisted the Paga Hill Development Company.

First, it is my understanding the assistance was provided through a paid contractual relationship between CK Consultancy Limited and Paga Hill Development Company. Of course, this is entirely legal.

However, Dame Kidu had been the leading figure arguing that while Paga Hill should be open to development, that the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) was the wrong company to do it. In fact, her reasoning can still be accessed from a press statement published on this blog: http://asopa.typepad.com/files/statement-by-dame-carol-kidu-on-the-paga-hill-scandal.pdf

Her concern appears to have stemmed in part from PHDC's past conduct, and the conduct of its executives. These executives have been involved with companies such as Anvil Project Services, Anvil Legal Services, CCS Anvil, and Destination PNG, which have been censured in a range of inquiries conducted by the Public Accounts Committee, Auditor General's Office, the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance and a number of notable journalists such as Sean Dorney.

So the question is, if this was not the right company to develop Paga Hill, was it the type of company a socially responsible company such as CK Consultancy should be contracting with?

Its a muddy situation, with no black and white answer.

But I can say one thing for sure, I was often there when the filmmakers came down to Paga Hill. And I allowed them to also sit in when I interviewed Dame Kidu as part of my research, because it was my understanding they were following the Paga Hill struggle. Dame Kidu was most adamant in this on-the-record interview, the Paga Hill controversy needed to be exposed publicly and internationally if justice was to be done.

In my view the filmmaker is now doing what Dame Kidu once strongly encouraged.

It's a pity they ended in some dispute.

The company was of course heavy handed and secured control over the land, zoned recreational, a park and entrusted with the National Museum, through rather unconventional means.

Many people supported the human and residential rights of the settlers (some of whom were recent, but others going back to immediately post-war) over the seemingly acquisitive developers (made up of some overseas and influential PNG business persons).

Dame Carol was seen as a bit of a hero in seeking to restrain clear human rights abuses in the heavy handed destruction of long established settlers houses and other property.

She may well have given little support to them as long term residents, not being traditional Motuan landowners, but she did provide a supportive role in the face of aggression and encourage a more courteous process at least.

Of course people have to live somewhere and Moresby has many vast settlements, and in the absence of govt planning and assistance these settlements are where a large portion of the city's working population lives.

There's far more need for the low cost housing that was being bulldozed than for another high cost hotel and luxury apartments. In the end the company had their way and evicted the settlers and turned Paga hill to looking now more like a mine site, but in due course presumably some Gold Coast style development will materialize.

Dame Carol in the end assisted the company in the resettlement process, but she suggests purely to make the inevitable transition smoother and more comfortable for those being evicted.

Some would argue that the settlers still lost out badly in the resettlement, but no doubt Dame Carol would be able to say she did her best; the company probably argues they did too.

Whatever the case, it seems Dame Carol shouldn't deny she had a sort of heroic, or Joan of Arc or David vs Goliath role..or that's how it was widely perceived, at least earlier on....

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