Another splendid Simbu Writers Association publication
It’s International Anti-Corruption Day

Transparency energetically fights land & other corruption in PNG

CorruptionSTAFF WRITER | Transparency International PNG (TIPNG)

PORT MORESBY - Betty, a resident of southern Papua New Guinea, is in a dispute over traditionally-owned family land which was passed to her by her late father. Situated within the capital, Port Moresby, the land has high commercial value.

Other members of Betty’s village disagree about which parts of the land she can use. In 2016, the local land court appointed two local mediators to assist in resolving the dispute.

After they had conducted an inspection and spoken with both parties, the mediators demanded payments from Betty as the complainant. This was improper, since they were court officials and had not been engaged by her.

Betty contacted TIPNG to raise her concerns.

Like many Transparency International chapters around the world, TIPNG runs an Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC), which gives free legal advice to people who have experienced or witnessed corruption.

Land corruption takes many forms, disproportionately impacts the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and makes up a large part of the complaints we receive.

TIPNG advised Betty on the laws governing village mediators and of the illegality of the demand for payment. Anti-corruption officers then wrote to the country’s chief magistrate on Betty’s behalf to raise the issue.

Both mediators were suspended.

Betty’s case is still before the courts and she is still seeking advice from TIPNG as she tries to navigate Papua New Guinea’s legal system. Hers is just one of the many types of land issues faced by Papua New Guineans who have reached out to TIPNG for assistance. ALAC has received around 600 complaints since 2009.

Due to the increasing amount of land corruption complaints, TIPNG successfully lobbied to have a complaints box at the Lands Department changed into a complaints desk. This has since been expanded into a fraud and complaints unit.

TIPNG meets officials from the department on a regular basis to follow up land complaints that come to ALAC.

Community engagement and institutional reform can be successful. However, there are also instances where cases of alleged corruption need to be raised publicly with the responsible government agencies.

Confronting the government is not easy and sometimes we face attack for flagging politically sensitive issues, such as with the recent road to Manumanu case concerning an alleged illegal land deal worth over K42 million. Nonetheless, TIPNG has been able to keep matter on the public agenda.

We revealed that implicated ministers had joined the O’Neill government after they had been suspended previously and the case drew national media attention as well as international media coverage. The prime minister felt it necessary to brief Parliament on the case.

In February 2018, files critical to the investigation went missing but the investigation report was shared with parliament. Following weeks of sustained pressure, TIPNG managed to make the report public and is now calling on the police and the national ombudsman to take action.

This is one of 20 unresolved cases from 2007–17 that TIPNG has promised not to forget.

We will continue to tackle this and other cases of land corruption through various forms of active engagement, whether the case involves man millions of kina or a pair of unscrupulous village court mediators.


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