Papua New Guinea's poor still waiting for a fair share

By Brian Thomson

Thirty-six years after the people of Papua New Guinea gained the right to govern themselves they are still waiting on a government that gives them a fair share of the country's considerable resources.

"We have so much need for basic government services  in the midst of the all mines, all the riches being extracted from our land," says Ombudsman John Toguata.

From the conflict over the Panguna mine in Bougainville until today, the story has remained the same - one resource project after another resulting in  landowner discontent over the failure to divide up the royalties properly and fairly.

PNG's resource laws and its tendency to agree to bad deals are a contributing factor, but so is corruption. 

For years now, politicians in Papua New Guinea have been more focussed on what they can take out rather than what they can put in.

A career in politics seen as an easy way to get rich quick but a new generation has emerged promising to do things differently.

Opposition leader Belden Namah says the failure to protect the landowners basic rights is the biggest issue currently facing PNG.

One change under serious consideration is a re-writing of PNG's resource law which would see the country automatically own 20 per cent of each project, rather than having to purchase a 20 per cent share - as is currently the case.

"If the people see the benefit of these multi-billion operations going on in the country going back to them we will be dealing with a totally different situation,", Toguata says.