Papua New Guinea
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High court adjourns resource ownership reference

The special Supreme Court reference on the legality of amendments to certain provisions of the Constitution and the Oil and Gas Act has been adjourned to next Monday.

The reference which is on foot is to determine issues relating to ownership of natural resources such as oil and gas in the country.

The application was filed pursuant to Section 18 of the Constitution for a full Supreme Court bench to determine the legality of certain provisions of the Constitution and the Oil and Gas Act.

The application was filed by Simon Ekanda and the Hela Tuguba Labanda Incorporated as first and second applicant respectively.

They are asking the court to interpret s.53 and s.212B(1) of the Constitution and s.6(1) and (2) of the Oil and Gas Act 1998.

These provisions basically give the State the right to own hydrocarbons and minerals in their natural state in any land in Papua New Guinea.

Section 6 of the Oil and Gas Act provides that all petroleum and helium at or below the surface of any lands is, and shall be deemed at all times to have been the property of the State.

The applicants seek to have those provisions interpreted correctly to fairly recognise the traditional and customary landowners of the resource areas.

They want the court to declare that s.53 (1) of the Constitution should:

They also want the court to declare that s.6(1) of the Oil and Gas Act 1998 which confers on the State exclusive ownership of hydrocarbons situated on customary land that is owned by traditional landowners, is inconsistent with s.53 of the Constitution.

Mr Ekanda filed the application in his capacity as a natural person and a citizen who has genuine interest in the interpretation and application of the constitutional provisions that affects his property, interest or rights in the hydrocarbons situated on traditional lands owned by him and the Hela Tuguba tribe of which he is one of the leaders.

The matter is expected to return to Supreme Court on September 7, for further directions and for the interveners to make their application to intervene.