Friday, February 21, 2014

The Champion of the Papua New Guineas Indigenous Lands Rights Peter Donigi passes on

By John Endemongo KUA

All good things come to an end, and as such, the life of an outstanding scholar and gentleman, had come to pass in the morning hours of the 31st January 2014, here in Port Moresby.
The late Donigi and myself, did not see eye to eye on many national issues of importance to the nation not because of the principles behind the issues, and nor did we allow each other the opportunity to discuss or debate issues of importance to the state or international concerns, simply because he was a Sepik and I a Chimbu, and we were rallying, behind the powerful men of post independence politics, with him standing stoically behind Somare as a kinsman and myself behind Okuk. 

For the better or worse, most political cadres were consumed in this shallow and empty game of cloak and dagger political manoeuvres, that destabilised the national progress in many respects to the detriment of this nation state.

Despite the hostile environment of ethnic and regional divide, reason prevailed in men of valour, such as Peter Donigi, who was an astute scholar in law and sociology, and was the chief advisor to the longest serving prime minister, in Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare. 

I found a deeply, rooted alliance, with him, where in, he was able to premise the greatest legal blunder, crafted by the Caucasian race of European, who had frolicked the vast oceans for new lands and territories, which they annexed with force of their own self serving inequitable laws that nullified the interests of the indigenous people who were natives of the land. 
Donigis arguments, on indigenous land rights, had received international attention, peaking with the United Nations General Assembly, which had passed a resolution, declaring that the indigenous people of any nation state, possessed an inalienable claim to land upon occupation and usage. 

Unfortunately his intellectual ability to logical reasoning could not find anchor the political masters of our nation, including the dinosaurs of PNG politics, particularly his own Sepik Kukurai, where he had difficulty in convincing that the land actually belonged to the indigenous inhabitants, including its other properties such as the vegetation and it's subsoil elements. 

In 2005, I called into his office at the UPNG, where he was tutoring in law, and probed him on the possibility of introducing amendments to the existing legislation particularly in relation to inorganic resources in minerals and hydrocarbons. He may have had a bad day, or his mind was engaged or something else was happening, but he reluctantly dismissed my notion of an amendment by pronouncing, his motion in court applying S. 19 of the constitution to interpret the relevant mining and petroleum laws in accordance with S. 53 to include the rights of indigenous customary land right holders. 

There was nothing I could do as a non lawyer, but to take my fight at the legislative front to rest my case, and to prove to Donigi that people power can be harnessed to change the legal framework for the better and faster route to restoring equitable rights. 

Luck struck, on the 18 July, 2008, when I stumbled over Boka Kondra, the member for North Fly, who had presented a grievance debate on the misgivings of the gigantic Ok Tedi mine in the Star Mountains, which had little or no benefit for the indigenous land owners. 

I approached him, that day, and convinced him that, he had the privilege to move a private members bill to amend the Mining Act, to remove the state, and restore the indigenous land owners as the legitimate proprietors. 

Kondra accepted my proposal and gave me a blanket power of attorney to co ordinate the drafting of the amendments on the 03 of February, 2009. I fired the instructions, to Pakgne Lawyers, to draft out the amendments to the Mining Act of 1992 and the Oil and gas Act of 1998.

The private members bills were sent to the parliamentary legal counsel for recourse, and had subsequently put on the notice paper for debate by the clerk of parliament. 

For presentation and elaboration, I could think of nobody, better than Donigi, and therefore rang him and invited him to the presentation at the state function room, where he authoritatively convinced those present that, such was the law. 

We endured a long campaign with him finally, drafting a master piece legislation, which Somare had shunned, and now O'Neill likewise. 

Boka Kondra got caught in the maze of self glorification and aborted the proposed amendments, in exchange for a cabinet post. 

With the death of the great champion of indigenous peoples land rights, I now declare war the puppets of foreign investors.
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