A draft Bill before Parliament will put a Silicon Valley start-up company in charge of a new Special Economic Zone in Papua New Guinea with powers to issue passports, prosecute local people and trade in cryptocurrencies totally outside the ambit of any national laws and the juridiction of Papua New Guinea's courts.

Local people say the new law has been developed with no local consultation, is unconstitutional and makes no economic sense.

The proposed law will defeat Papua New Guinea's goals of national sovereignty, sef reliance, equality and participation, wise use of natural resources, integral human development and reliance on Papua New Guinean Ways.

The people of Finschaffen District are calling for national and international support for their petition to all Members of Parlaiment calling on them to reject the draft Bill.

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This petition contains the grievances from land owners of the project site and the general population of Finschhafen District in relation to the proposed Finschhafen Special Economic Zone Bill dated 27th July 2018, which is now before Parliament.

Following the leakage and revelation of the details of a proposed law titled, “ Finschhafen Special Economic Zone Bill 2018” purportedly sponsored by the Member for Finschhafen and given notice to Parliament on 27th July 2018, we the undersigned people of Finschhafen through this forum now seek extended support from the Opposition caucus and all responsible Members of Parliament to address this sensitive and suspicious Bill concerning our District which has been developed and processed without consultation with or contribution from the most important stakeholders – the constituents/population of Finschhafen, Morobe Province.

It is also our firm belief that the proponents of this idea and Bill led by our MP Hon Renbo Paita have not consulted adequately with the Government and other relevant state agencies on the many serious broader constitutional and legal implications that are evident within the sections of this proposed law. Hence we urge all Members of Parliament to read every word of this petition and make a decision in the best interest of not only the people of Finschhafen Electorate but of Papua New Guinea as a whole TO VOTE AGAINST THIS BILL.

We will attempt to point out the relevant provisions of the Bill that is of concern to us which we have identified and gathered from our findings and from reliable professional interpretations through the numerous awareness conducted through our own initiative in this letter of petition.

POINT 1.0 – NO CONSULTATION WITH CONSTITUENTS ON THE BILL

The process followed by the MP for Finschhafen so far in tabling this Bill in Parliament without consultation with constituents back in the Electorate is highly undemocratic and questionable for the following reasons.
1.1  The Bill was never deliberated nor debated before all five (5) Finschhafen District Development Authority (FDDA) Board meetings since the current Member for Finschhafen took office last year.
1.2  There were no awareness programs carried out on the said Bill in consultation with the land owners and the constituents of Finschhafen by way of explanation on each section of the Bill and how it will affect the interests of not only landowners and the people of Finschhafen District but of Papua New Guinea as a whole.
1.3  The Bill was designed without consultation and knowledge of the constituents of Finschhafen and we demand to be informed of who the author of the Bill was and what the Bill entails for us given that our land will be taken from us and vested in a foreign company namely Ledger Atlas Inc. under the guise of the Finschhafen Special Economic Zone Authority.
1.4  The Bill secretly made its way into Parliament without our knowledge until it was “leaked” on the 28th July 2018 when news of the Bill was received in Finschhafen.
1.5  Following the leakage of the Bill the Finschhafen MP and his District Development Authority were petitioned to address the constituents on the 17th of August 2018, in Finschhafen but they failed to do so. A copy of the Petition handed to the MP for Finschhafen Hon Renbo Paita on Tuesday 14 August in Finschhafen is at Attachment 1.

POINT 2.0 - SERIOUS CONCERNS ON THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE BILL

2.1  Several provisions of the Bill mentioned below appear to be unconstitutional on the face of it and we the undersigned appeal for your careful examination of these provision as WE BELIEVE these do have serious implications for not only the people of Finschhafen electorate but Papua New Guinea as a whole. The provisions are:
2.2  Section 3 – Purposes of the Act
  This Section seeks to establish an independent framework for the establishment, development, regulation and operation of the FSEZ in the Finschhafen District of PNG in accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement Specified in Section 4 (NOT in accordance with the laws of PNG).
  Section 3(b) provides that the FSEZ is exempted from the “existing government framework” In other words, the Bill purports to vests legal authority and sovereignty to a private entity (The FSEZ Authority) that will operate its business with other foreign entities through a highly sophisticated system without Government regulation and scrutiny and outside of the laws of PNG.
  God forbid that the Government of the day should be “selling” Finschhafen Electorate to “white collar” exploitation without fully understanding the implications of this bizarre law or what it seeks to introduce.

2.3  Section 4 - Memorandum of Agreement to have the Force of Law
  Section 4 seeks to confer legal status for the MOA.
  The MOA is a private agreement serving the interests of a foreign company. Why should it be given legal status? We will be defrauded by this deal.
  The Memorandum of Agreement is not attached to the Bill and we the constituents have not seen it and do not know what has been agreed to between the State and this company hence we urge you to scrutinise it on our behalf as we believe it seeks to serve the private business interests of the company, Ledger Atlas Inc. at the expense of the constituents and resource owners of Finschhafen.
  Subsection 2 is also outright unconstitutional as it goes further to state under subsection 2 that any provision of any Act of Parliament that is inconsistent with provisions of the MOA is deemed to be superseded by the MOA.
  Subsection 3 is also unconstitutional as it subjects the State to the terms of the MOA by requiring the National, Provincial, Local-level government and all instrumentalities of the State to ensure compliance with the MOA.
  We the people of Finschhafen have not been consulted on the MOA. We do not know what the development plan is. We do not know what business is going to be conducted by Ledger Atlas Inc. using our customary land and resources and are very alarmed by this proposed law.
  By conferring legal status on an MOA that propagates private interests and arrangements, the Bill clearly offends the Constitution of PNG which has a clearly defined process of law-making. Declaring a private agreement to be law is a mockery of this process and is unconstitutional.

2.4 Section 5 – This Act Binds the State
  It Is provided in S5 (1) this Bill is binding on the State and seeks a “special status” to ensure that its purposes as set out under Section 3 are fulfilled. However, it is NOT bound by the laws of PNG!
  What are the purposes of the Bill?
The basic purpose of the Bill is to provide a conducive environment for the foreign entity Ledger Atlas Inc. to do its business using the Blockchain technology in PNG, specifically in the Finschhafen Electorate freely and without Government regulation and control.
  The Blockchain Technology that is being proposed through this Bill advocates an unregulated market system operated by a foreign company that backs the crypto currency called the Bitcoin. Much of this operation involves highly technical knowledge and involves technology that is beyond the reach and understanding of most Papua New Guineans.
  Obviously the company will gain at our expense. The Benefit Sharing Agreement at Schedule 2 of the Bill clearly demonstrates the intent of this proposed law. Why is Ledger Atlas being given special treatment here? We the people of Finschhafen demand to know. 

 For Ledger Atlas to reject the authority of the law of this country but binds the country to its purpose is highly unconstitutional as it offends the sovereignty of PNG.

2.5  Sections 7 – 13: The FSEZ Authority
  This is the “new government” that is being created by this proposed law that seeks legal recognition through this proposed law to put itself above the laws of this country by binding the State in its private interest (Section 5) and making itself NOT answerable to the laws and institutions of the State (Section 7 (2)(b)).
  The Authority, does not have any Finschhafen representative in it. It also seeks to operate free from government. It is a clever guise for Ledger Atlas Inc. the proponent of the FSEZ Bill.
  We, the undersigned people of Finschhafen refuse to recognise and be subjected to this “new government” that seeks to usurp the legal authority of the Government of PNG and rule over us, our land and our natural resources without our consent for its own business interest.
  We will be SOLD if the government passes this Bill as we have no voice and no choice in this arrangement. Our legal and constitutional safeguards are being denied by this proposed law. We urge responsible MPs to save us by voting against this unconstitutional Bill.

2.6  Section 11 – The FSEZ Authority is Autonomous
  The intent of this Bill is nowhere as clear as this provision which states: “The Authority shall manage and administer the FSEZ independently and without any direction or control from any person or body except as provided in this section. The only exception here is “general policy direction” from the Minister however even policy directions must not be inconsistent with the objectives of this Act.
  As we can see here, any reference to oversight authority by Government is only lip service as Ledger Atlas Inc. will not be subjected to direction and control by any person or any law in PNG where such direction and control seeks to enforce government regulations or enforce the rights of individuals affected by the operations of this foreign entity.
  This is a strange case of bulldozing in a private interest through legislation. This is a mockery of our law-making processes as private agreements of this sort should remain as contracts and must never be given the force of law. Especially one that seeks ultimate control of territorial area, land, natural resources and rejects government authority and regulation.
  This is unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any circumstances.


2.7  Sections 14 – 17 and 26 – The FSEZ Authority is the ‘new government’ of Finschhafen District?
  We urge you to take a closure look at these Sections to check out who is going to be vested with all powers concerning the territorial area of Finschhafen.
  As it appears, the new “Ruler” of Finschhafen is the Chairman of the Board of the FSEZ. Neither the MP for Finschhafen Open, nor the Finschhafen District Development Authority nor the collective traditional resource owners of Finschhafen, not even the laws of PNG will have any say at all in what goes on in the FSEZ area.
  Even the FSEZ area is not clearly defined which leaves the Finschhafen Electorate to the mercy of Ledger Atlas Inc. once the Bill is law as the company will be empowered by this law to acquire land at will.
  The foreigner described under Section 17 (1) of the proposed law as the “Director and Regional President Pacific of Ledger Atlas Inc” is the ultimate authority of the territorial area of Finschhafen. The same person is also the CEO of the FSEZ Authority under Section 26. See also Section 12 (Legal personality and representation of the Authority).
  We the undersigned people of Finschhafen do NOT know who this person is and where he comes from. But we understand that by the authority conferred under Section 17 of this proposed law, once the Bill is passed, this person will be vested with all the powers to do his good pleasure according to the objectives of the Ledger Atlas Inc.

2.8  Section 45 – Acquisition of Land by the Authority
  Section 45(1) proposes that land will be acquired under the Land Act.
  This is misleading as customary land cannot be of legally according to the procedure proposed under Subsection 2. Sadly, if this Bill is passed, we will have no recourse to justice as PNG laws in place that provide protection for us as resource owners will not be applicable to operation of the FSEZ.
  Section 45(3) is outright draconian in its intentions to “deprive customary landowners of their birthright” by denying us the right to deal with our customary lands as we deem best for our people. This section requires the Authority to not only be involved in all dealings with FSEZ lands but that any dealings must be APPROVED by the authority (See Section 45(3) (a) and (b)).
  Who is this creature Ledger Atlas Inc. to have absolute control over our customary land? Where is our legal right to protection of our property and how do we enforce this right if the laws and the legal jurisdiction of PNG does not apply to this foreign company? 

 The Finschhafen people have not been consulted on this sensitive issue that touches our livelihood and our very lives and we do not sanction it under any circumstances. This is not a joke and must not be treated as one!

2.9  Other Provisions that MUST be of serious concern to you as responsible leaders of our people and should cause you to VOTE AGAINST this UNCONSTITUITIONAL Bill are as follows: 


2.10  Sections 65, 66 and 67 – Application of Customs Laws
  There will be no tax liability for goods imported or exported through the FSEZ by Legder Atlas Inc.
  Has PNG Customs or Department of Justice and Attorney General provided a commentary or advice on this critical revenue generating function and the practical and or potential implications associated with this proposal?

2.11  Sections 68, 69, 70 – FSEZ Environment, Employment and Immigration
  Ledge Atlas Inc. under the guise of FSEZ can make its own environmental regulations or develop an MOU with the responsible Department on environmental matters under Section 68. Has the Department of Environment and Conservation been consulted on this?
  Section 69 proposes coordination with the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations on employment rights, permits, safety conditions and standards etc. Also provides for certain restrictions on foreign nationals to be waivered. It is proposed that Atlas Ledger will dictate all of these without government interference.
  Section 70 provides for the Authority to issue Special Purpose FSEZ Passports or laissez passers to foreign nationals. Provisions of Section 70 is clearly contrary to various provisions of the current Migration Act. E- residency for instance is a concept that does not exist at present and would require careful consideration to ensure that PNG’s border security is not compromised.
  PNG Immigration must be consulted on the potential implications and risks with respect to border security, transnational crimes and more importantly consultation with other national security agencies on the emerging critical issues of national security implications. What is the safeguard for PNG if the FSEZ is not subjected to the laws of this country?
  Issuing private Passports for ‘citizens’ of a part of the territory of PNG is unconstitutional and not only contravenes Section 2 of the Constitution of PNG but undermines the sovereignty of this nation. It is likely to attract a major integrity risk for the government of PNG especially after APEC.

2.12  Section 71-72 – SEZ Investor Rights and Guarantees
  These provisions seek more incentives and rights for those doing business in the FSEZ but denies the democratic and human rights of the traditional and legitimate owners of the land. This is a big joke and an insult to the people of Finschhafen Electorate.
  What is the community and social obligations of these invisible people we are trying to give special privileges to and how can we hold them accountable or even enforce our rights when our PNG laws are inapplicable?

2.13  Section 74 – Administration of Disputes   This Section states that only the PNG Criminal Code Act 1974 shall apply to Criminal Offences obviously to protect the interests of Ledger Atlas Inc. however all administrative, civil or commercial disputes between the Government of PNG and the FSEZ operator Ledger Atlas Inc. shall be settled in international courts of arbitration. What are these Courts and where are they located?
  This provision undermines the Authority of the judicial arm of government in PNG and makes it redundant as far as the FSEZ and Ledger Atlas Inc. is concerned.
  Does it make sense for the Independent State of Papua New Guinea to be seeking international arbitration for a dispute with a foreign company which it has by its wisdom granted immunity from the authority of the laws and the Courts of this country? Will not PNG look like a complete fool?
  This provision is absurd and outright unconstitutional as it contravenes Section 155 of the Constitution and the Bill should not be supported by any right thinking politician.

2.14  Section 77 – Offences

 Section 77 appears to be an incomplete provision as it makes no mention of the penalties nor the legal jurisdiction for these created offences.

2.15  Section 78 – General Penalty
  This Section appears to cater for the lack in Section 77 as it provides that; where there is no specified penalty for an offence the penalty shall be a fine not exceeding US$100 000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both and a default penalty fine not exceeding US$5,000.00
  The problem is, which legal jurisdiction or Courts will apply these penalties? Certainly not the PNG Criminal Justice System as the penalties appear to be extrajudicial and beyond established sentencing guidelines.
 Provisions of Sections 86, 87 and 88 must also be carefully considered as with the above provisions, is unconstitutional as it rejects and undermine the authority of the national justice system.

2.16  Section 89 and 90 – Autonomy, extraterritoriality and Exclusivity and Duration of the FSEZ
  Immunity, exclusivity and extraterritorial protection by law is unconstitutional and must not be entertained as it undermines the sovereignty of PNG, its laws and state authority and leaves Finschhafen Electorate open to foreign manipulation and the whims of a foreign private entity, Ledger Atlas Inc.
  Providing free reign to a foreign company to operate outside of government control and regulation for 50 years with no provision for landowner rights is like creating a mini state within PNG. This is VERY SUSPICIOUS especially when there is no consultation with land owners, development plans, clan vetting processes etc. The FSEZ Bill and how it has been propelled into Parliament contains the hallmarks of a SCAM.
  PNG government could be providing a safe haven for international criminals and risking not only its reputation which it is building through APEC but also its integrity as a democratic nation.
  These sections of the FSEZ Bill are unconstitutional.

2.17  Section 91 – Exemption from taxes
 The Authority shall be exempted from income tax and customs and excise duties under any law. This means that they are not subjected to the tax laws of Papua New Guinea yet are at liberty to regulate their own operations under Section 93. Is this the intent of Government?

2.18 Section 92 – Application of Act of the National Parliament and Provincial or LLG Acts
  All laws of PNG does not apply to the FSEZ unless expressly provided in this Bill. If the Bill is passed, Ledger Atlas Inc. will be permitted to physically enter and pursue its private business interest on our customary land with impunity and we will have no recourse to legal remedies.
  How can Parliament pass a law that sanctions ‘institutional trespass and robbery? This is outright unconstitutional and criminal and must not be supported under any circumstances. 


POINT 3.0 SOME OUTSTANDING QUESTIONS

3.1 Finschhafen needs to know the content of the MOA alleged to be signed in April 2018, and the MOU which derives from the MOA. We have been defrauded so far. Our land has been taken and cleared of vegetation already! Is the Parliament going to sanction this cheating?

3.2 Why should the Government of PNG legislate to hand over its sovereignty for a part of its territory to an unknown foreign company under this suspicious Bill?

3.3 Where is the rights of Traditional and Customary Land and Resource owners in this deal with Ledger Atlas Inc? We do not even feature in the Benefit Sharing as set out in Schedule 2. Is this not criminal?

3.4 Why would Finschhafen District Development Authority Board deny the Constituents the right to know the content of the Memorandum of understanding signed including the Memorandum of Agreement together with the Government of Papua New Guinea and Pacific Ledger Atlas Inc?

3.5 The Bill does not specify a select site for establishment of FSEZ. Could it mean Include the entire political boundary of Finschhafen will be under the authority of a foreign company for 50 years?

3.6 Section 45, subsection 2 (c) on acquisition of land, completely denies land owners their rights to appeal, dispute, or file court petition in respect to ownership of their land. Land owners have not been assisted to enter into proper land registration procedures and land lease arrangement to be effected. Is this not a legalised SCAM and who really is Ledger Altas Inc?

3.7 Does the Constitution of PNG allow for foreigners or private foreign interests to make decisions over our customary land as is now provided under Section 46, (1) and (2) of the FSEZ Bill -Approval of Other Lands?

3.8 We see that the Act is being drafted in the sole interest of the purported Authority and not in the best interest of the Land owners nor the constituents of Finschhafen. Ledger Atlas Inc is an unknown player and is only here to gain approval from the government to take over, manipulate and dictate its operations to suit its own desires and not for the benefit of the people of Finschhafen. Ledger Atlas Inc. has hidden motives to bring about the Blockchain Technology and gradually effect crypto currency into the PNG financial system.

3.9 The Bank of PNG continues to denounce on public media that no citizen is to engage or trade using crypto currencies or digital money. There is no guarantee that crypto currencies will be accepted as an acceptable medium of exchange. Investment in such digital currencies is considered very risky and speculative in nature. If such warning must be adhered to and is of paramount importance than how would this government get the FSEZ Bill to be passed without careful scrutiny and debate when the bottom line objective of the FSEZ directly is adverse to BPNG warnings?

POINT 4.0

4.1 OUR PLEA TO YOU AS RESPONSIBLE LEADERS OF THIS GREAT NATION

We the undersigned:
  Present our petition forthwith seeking YOUR ACTION AGAINST THIS SINISTER BILL for the good of the constituents and our future generation for our traditional rights and the freedom of liberty to speak for our natural rights to exist on our land; and
  Beg your serious consideration of this Petition and the grave issues highlighted herein and trust that you will VOTE AGAINST this UNCONSTITUTIONAL Bill and make sure that it never sees the light of day ever again; and
  Trust that as responsible leaders, you will DO THE RIGHT THING by SAYING NO TO THE FSEZ BILL and to Ledger Atlas Inc. on our behalf and on behalf of our country Papua New Guinea. 

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