BULOLO MP Sam Basil does not want Morobe Governor Luther Wenge to engage different lawyers and toxicologists to represent the affected Watut River communities over pollution claims relating to the Hidden Valley mine in Papua New Guinea.
Basil said almost K1 million from the Morobe treasury had already been paid to a law firm over a three-year period. “If the governor proceeds with this action, it will be a duplication of the efforts of Bulolo district which has already spent K50,000 as legal fees and another K50,000 to engage a toxicologist,” he said and questioned why Wenge had made a separate commitment to support the legal fight funded by the district.
After being given a copy of records from the province’s treasury including cheque numbers, Basil questioned why private law firm Steel Lawyers was paid a retainer by the Morobe provincial government from 2006 to 2008. “This means they were still being paid regardless of whether they were a fighting a court challenge for the provincial government,” he said. “Under that arrangement, the law firm basically is looking after the interests of the governor.”
He said the firm had been paid K258,382 in 2006, K258,850 in 2007 and K318,316 in 2008, while records for 2009 to this year had yet to be made available to him. “There is no need to spend another kina when the Lae road needs fixing,” Basil said.
Prominent lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr and respected toxicologist Gama Gamato, a Morobean who works in the Australian mining industry, are engaged by Bulolo district on behalf of the affected communities in Huon Gulf and Bulolo districts. Basil said he wanted the financial records made known so that the people of Morobe “can know the truth about how the provincial government and its administration are operating”.