Communication tower mystery poses serious questions

PNGi usually likes to focus on providing the answers; investigating, analysing and then exposing who did what, where and when and why it was wrong.

However, sometimes we come across mere glimpses or shadows that we cannot, because of the information vacuum that so often exists in Papua New Guinea, use to construct a clear picture of wrongdoing but which provoke questions that deserve a public answer.

One example involves Wandi Yamuna, his company IGWT Communication Ltd and a lease over land in the Varirata National Park outside Port Moresby.

Wandi Yamuna, is of course so stranger to controversy as PNGi has previously documented.

According to a Commission of Inquiry, while Managing Director of the Investment Corporation in the late 90’s, Yamuna was involved in ‘misappropriation, collusion, unlawful engagement of legal practitioners, sales agents and companies, illegal sales and contracts, failure to protect the interests of the Corporation, misappropriation of various sums totalling over K6 million, diversion of funds against board resolutions and the fabrication of Board minutes’.

No criminal action seems to have followed these findings so they remain only allegations.

Yamuna has also been a business associate of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and, as recently as 2017, Yamuna was reportedly serving as the PM’s deputy Chief of Staff.

Our current mystery though, begins in 2006. In February of that year a State Lease was issued over 2.76 hectares of land in the Varirata National Park to the company ‘IGWT Communication Limited’.

According to Investment Promotion Authority records, ‘IGWT Communication Ltd’ is a company owned by Wandi Yamuna (50%), Tony Stanley (30%) and Jireh Corporation Limited (20%).

Jireh Corporation Limited is owned by Dr Allan Marat and four of his family, Nathaniel, Utal, Immanuel and Allan Jnr Marat.

Jireh acquired its stake in IGWT in 2004 and Immanuel Marat served as a director of IGWT from 2004 until 2010.

The lease granted to IGWT in 2006 was for a term of 99 years from 24 November 2005 and was granted for the ’special purpose’ of the construction of a telecommunications tower.

The lease was granted at a rent of just K70 per year for the first 10 years, but it required that a telecommunications tower of a minimum value of K1 million be erected within five years and maintained in good repair for the term of the lease.

Our first question is, did IGWT comply with the terms of its special lease and erect a communications tower worth at least K1 million before the end of 2010?

Three pieces of evidence suggest that maybe IGWT did not build a tower as required.

Firstly, unlike IGWT which has unlawfully failed to file any Annual Returns since it was incorporated, Jireh Corporation has been diligent in filing its annual returns. One would expect nothing less given Allan Marat has served three terms as the Member of Parliament for Rabaul and been Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Justice.

The Annual Returns filed by Jireh Corporation consistently show, over more than a decade, no assets and no liabilities.

Part of the Jireh Limited Annual Return for 2016 showing no assets

If IGWT owned a K1 million plus communications tower in the Varirata National Park one would expect Jireh, which owns 20% of IGWT, to be declaring some assets.

The second piece of evidence that suggests IGWT might not have complied with the terms of its lease, is a letter of demand sent by IGWT to the Royal PNG Constabulary in January 2017.

The letter claims someone has illegally constructed a communication tower on the land leased by IGWT in ‘Wariratta [sic] National Park’. The letter asks the police to confirm if the tower belongs to them. The letter is signed by Wandi Yamuna as director of IGWT and bears the company seal.

Why would the police, or anyone else, construct a communications tower on land leased by IGWT if IGWT had already complied with its lease and built its own tower?

The third piece of evidence is a little crude, and of limited value in itself, but nonetheless interesting.

A close examination of the Varirita National Park using the satellite imagery displayed on google maps, reveals various small constructions, park huts etc, but nothing resembling a K1m plus communications tower.

Google map showing the location of the Varirata National Park

Given this evidence, we can pose some further intriguing questions:

If no tower was built by IGWT why has the lease not been forfeited back to the State as required by its terms?

Alternatively, if a tower was built by IGWT why is it not reflected in the Annual Returns filed by Jireh Corporation?

Why has no action been taken against the directors of IGWT for failing to file any annual returns over a 17-year period from 2001 until now?

Have any other State leases be granted to IGWT for the construction of communication towers and have the terms of those leases been complied with?