The Paga Hill Community
27 June 2012
Paga Hill is the traditional lands of the Geakone clan. The Geakone clan to this day
maintain their customary rights over the area, and contest having alienated the land to
the state. It is on the original authority of the Geakone clan, that the Paga community
claim certain interests in Paga Hill.
The origins of the Paga Hill
community extend back to the
immediate aftermath of WWII, when
the veteran Papua New Guinean
soldier Mairi Nakaia was invited by
Colonel Cole Wilson to reside on the
land, in order to maintain strategically
important military installations. Mairi
Nakaia was from the Kikori area of
Gulf Province. In 1964, Nakaia was
joined by Kikori kin who became the
pioneer settlers. Image 1: Paga Hill during better times.
Following Nakaia’s death in 1970, the living arrangements of the Kikori settlers was
formalised by Chief Lohia Doriga of the Geakone clan, who invited the settlers to remain
at the site and continue as custodians of the area’s historical relics.
As a result of this arrangement, the Paga Hill community has evolved into a vibrant
multi-ethnic suburb. Paga Hill has an elementary school, a church, a development
committee, a heritage association, gardens, markets, and canteens. 54.1% of its
population are employed in the formal sector. Its residents include small businessman,
university educated professionals, and the preeminent Papua New Guinean artist
Ratoos Haoapa Gary.
Paga Hill Development Company
In 1997 the Papua New Guinea state leased Portion 1597 – which includes Paga Hill – to
the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) (PHDC were then known as Paga Hill Land
Holding Company). The Urban Development Lease (UDL) was for a period of 5 years, it
included an improvement covenant of K300 million, in addition to annual rent of
K30,000. According to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) “a large number of onerous
conditions [were] attached to the UDL – none of which, the Committee concludes, have
been complied with by the Lessee” (see 2006 Public Accounts Committee report on the
Department of Lands).
Despite non-compliance PHDC was granted a 99 year business lease over portion 1597
in September 2000. The Public Accounts Committee remarked “the failure to comply
with the UDL covenants, particularly the Improvement Covenant, should have resulted
in the Department forfeiting the Lease – or at least, not issuing a Business Lease”.
Nevertheless, the 99 year lease was granted; attached to the lease was a K10 million
improvement covenant, and annual rent of k250,000. Like with the UDL, PAC claims the
lease covenants were not complied with: “The Lease contained only very basic
covenants requiring payment of Land Rent and an Improvement Covenant requiring
improvements to a minimum of K 10 million within five years of issue of the Lease – on
the 1/09/2000. Neither covenant has been complied with. No attempt has been made to
forfeit the Lease by the Department for this failure”. In May 2001 the rent was reduced
from K250,000 to K50,000 via a hand written note on the lease document –
nevertheless PAC notes by February 2006, PHDC was K237,000 in arreas.
Despite multiple failures on the developer’s part, the business lease was reissued on the
3rd of April 2009. However, the improvement covenant was reduced to K5 million, and
the annual rent was dropped to K50,000 – 5% of the land’s value – thus formalising the
aforementioned hand written note. Despite booming property prices in Port Moresby, it
appears Paga Hill’s value has dropped from K5 million in 2000, to K1 million in 2009.
Hotels and Seaparks
Despite the chequered legal history of Portion 1597, PHDC has repeatedly announced
ambitious plans to develop the area. The first substantive proposal was announced in
1998, by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Nali. Mr Nali, claimed Paga Hill would
be turned from an ‘eyesore’ into ‘an icon’ (Australian Financial Review, 14/4/1998).
Central to the landmark’s regeneration would be a major hotel complex. However, the
project lost political support after Nali was sacked from Cabinet in October 1998.
Then in 2003, parliamentary speaker Bill Skate announced the development of a major
amusement complex at the Paga Hill site. According, to Skate CCS Anvil would be
conducting the feasibility study, paid for out of Skate’s district support grant. The
Director of CCS Anvil was none other than Gudmundur Fridriksson, the current
Secretary of PHDC. Interviewed by the Post Courier, “Mr Freidriksson said the project, if
and when completed, would have 200-300 metres of water slide from the top of Paga
Hill and into the sea, a children's playground, an open-air cinema, a picnic pavilion,
floating pontoons, paddle boats and a lookout on the top of Paga Hill. It would also have
a big waterfront area for markets, restaurants, bowling and a mini golf course” (Post
Courier, 18/3/2003). Despite their ambitious plans, no amusement centre was ever
In 2012 PHDC have decided to revisit their 1998 proposal to build a major hotel at Paga
Hill, along with extensive commercial premises. According to the company
spokesperson, Stanley Liria, PHDC has an agreement with the Hilton Hotel chain, to
develop the site. To date, Hilton Hotels have made no public statement confirming or
denying their relationship with PHDC.
The Forced Eviction
Image 2: Paga Hill Community Before 12 May 2012 Image 3: Paga Hill Community After 12 May 2012
One of the major challenges facing PHDC, is the Paga Hill community. The community
claim an equitable interest in the area, given that four generations of residents have
invested in building the community into what it is today. While the community is
prepared to resettle in a new area, it must be fairly compensated and given secure title
To date, PHDC have given the Paga Hill community three choices, which were outlined
by the opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu in a press release dated 14 May 2012:
Option 1. Dismantle your houses and we will take the materials to 6 Mile for you to
reconstruct. You will be given K2,000 hardship allowance and a tent and mosquito nets.
Option 2: Look for your own land to stay on and we will give K10, 000 for permanent
houses; K5,000 for a semi-permanent houses; and K2,000 for shanties and bunkers.
Option 3: If you do not accept 1 or 2 police will be authorised to carry out an eviction
Option 1 and 2, are problematic for a number of reasons. In short, the community do not
feel they have secure title to land in 6 mile, and they believe the compensation
payments do not fully reflect their investments in Paga Hill. Accrodingly, the Paga Hill
community have rejected options 1 and 2, but nonetheless remain prepared to
negotiate a more equitable solution.
Despite the willingness of the community to negotiate, PHDC unilaterally enacted option
3. To that end, on 12 May 2012, heavily armed police officers attempted to forcefully
evict residents at the Paga Hill settlement in Port Moresby. Bulldozers destroyed homes,
while distraught residents looked on. When opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu
attempted to stop the demolition, she was manhandled by heavily armed officers, and
frog marched from the area.
The actions of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) were a clear
violation of the resident’s constitutionally enshrined human rights. Moreover, the
demolition of the homes also violated international principles on evictions.
The UN’s Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development Based Evictions and
Displacement, declare where evictions are necessary, there is a duty on the part of the
state to observe certain guidelines. In particular, state officials should allow neutral
monitors to be present at the eviction, while every effort must be taken to protect both
the property of residents, and vulnerable groups such as women and children. The
principles also state that police officers involved in the eviction must observe the Basic
Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
Unfortunately these principles
were ignored by state authorities
when they attempted to evict Paga
Hill residents. Not only were the
homes of residents destroyed, so
were their contents (see Image 4).
Furthermore, when opposition
leader Dame Carol Kidu expressly
raised concerns over the
illegitimate manner in which the
eviction was being carried out –
in line with UN principles – she
was manhandled by heavily
Image 4: A demolished home, and its destroyed contents.
armed police officers (The
Police then used firearms to disperse concerned Paga Hill residents. The footage
released on the incident, suggests the officers were not under “imminent threat of death
or serious injury”, as is required under the aforementioned principles.
Compounding matters, those displaced
by the demolition now reside under
makeshift structures, and tents. This has
had a particularly profound impact on
children and women in the settlement
(see Image 5).
It was incumbent upon the authorities to
not only use minimal force during the
eviction exercise, but to ensure that a)
the property of residents was carefully
secured; and b) provisions were in place Image 5: A boy attempts to complete his homework
to protect the fundamental human rights under a temporary shelter.
of vulnerable community members, in
It is a mystery to the Paga Hill community how a company with the track record of
PHDC, has been able to obtain three leases over Portion 1597. As a result of state-
corporate collusion the people of Paga Hill have been deprived of their basic human
rights, and the community has been thrown into turmoil. In addition to the damage
sustained to properties, people are living in a perpetual state of fear, waiting for the
next cavalcade of police trucks to arrive.
The community has identified two ways forward.
1. Roundtable discussions must be convened between the State and the Geakone
Clan members. At this first stage of negotiations, only State representatives and
the Geakone Clan members should be in attendance. Once the first round of
negotiations have been successfully concluded, then prospective developers
should be invited to join negotiations. Finally, once a viable development plan
has been devised for the area, the Paga Hill community should be brought into
the negotiations, so that discussions can begin on the issues of just compensation
and relocation; or
2. Paga Hill Heritage – a body set up to represent the Paga Hill Settlement – agrees
to work with national and international actors to regenerate Paga Hill. The aim
would be to turn the area into a) national park, as was originally envisaged; b) a
tourist destination and c) a cultural centre. Of course, to facilitate this initiative
PHDC’s title over the land must be annulled.