O’Neill’s illegal logging: 392 days and counting…

July 22, 2014 Leave a comment

392

It is now 392 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.

It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.

O’Neill has promised to cancel the leases and stop the illegal logging several times and last month he announced an NEC decision ordering the cancellation of some of the leases

But we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 392 days O’Neill has failed to act on the Commission of Inquiry findings, failed to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

peter-o-neill

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 387 days and counting…

July 16, 2014 Leave a comment

count - 387

peter-o-neill

Australian run company given black eye by Paga Hill community

July 11, 2014 3 comments

They have been shot at, had their houses bulldozed, been beaten up by police, and threatened by private security guards and armed thugs – but still the community at Paga Hill continue their struggle against the Australian run Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC). And on 1 July they achieved a significant victory.

The Supreme Court has ruled [see judgement below] that lower Paga – a community whose origins extend back into the 1960s – sits on reclaimed land, outside a state lease (portion 1597) which the current developer, according to the Public Accounts Committee, obtained through ‘corrupt dealings’.

Lower Paga entered the national stage back in May 2012 when police helped bulldoze properties on the harbour  foreshore, leaving hundreds homeless. The developer’s Australian CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, told the Australian press that the community were merely ‘squatters and settlers and criminals’.

Police open fire on unarmed civilians during Paga Hill forced evictions

Police open fire on unarmed civilians during Paga Hill forced evictions in May 2012

Now questions must be raised over how the company managed to jointly organise a demolition – they have confessed to hiring the bulldozing equipment – buttressed by heavily armed police, on land lying outside their state lease.

The company is trying to spin their gutting Supreme Court loss as a victory. On 1 July PHDC posted on their facebook page, ‘Supreme Court delivers judgement – PHDC granted vacant possession, upholding previous National Court decision’.

Then comes the all important caveat: ‘Area with SDA church deemed to reside on a separate deemed on separate title and within path of ring road. PHDC encourage NCDC and Curtain Bros to pursue a comprehensive resettlement solution’.

And sure enough the same words, almost verbatim, appear in the Post-Courier a day later. Yet no sub-editor stopped to ask why a SDA Church would need to be ‘resettled’! Odd indeed.

Had they bothered to ask a near obvious question they would have discovered that the reclaimed land outside the lease also includes a large swathe of the community, encompassing hundreds of families; right where PHDC’s much vaunted marina is evidently going to be pitched, alongside its assortment of ‘luxury’ facilities (somehow intersecting with a busy four-lane ring road?).

Of course, the Post-Courier is not known for checking corporate press releases before publishing them as news. Had they given the court order even a cursory glance they would see it is the Paga Hill community who are the victors, their leader Joe Moses vindicated after a two year legal struggle, punctuated with police intimidation.

The Supreme Court victory is the first tentative step towards justice for Paga Hill – serious questions remain over how the developer has managed to maintain its grip on a 99 year state lease over Portion 1597, which encompasses a former national park, despite serious evidence of illegality which has been documented in a report tabled before parliament.

It is also time that the government took stock of its lawful responsibilities, and investigate the CEO of Paga Hill Development Company, who has run companies censured in numerous Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee report, in addition to media and human rights investigations. For example:

  • In 1996 the national government paid Fridriksson K2.5 million for Destination Papua New Guinea, a book (yes K2.5 million for a book!) riddled with what Sean Dorney calls ‘appalling mistakes’. To secure payment, Dorney claims Fridriksson offered a Finance Department officer a cut of the payment.
  • The Auditor General alleges CCS Anvil – a company owned by Fridriksson and Paga Hill Development Company shareholder George Hallitt – wrongfully seized K1,966,677 from the sale of deceased PNG estates, when advising the Public Curators Office (CCS Anvil has acted as Paga Hill Development Company’s ‘project director’).
  • According to the Auditor General K4,872,375 in ‘unlawful’ payments were made to CCS Anvil by the Public Curators Office.
  • K79,500 in unlawful payments  - according to the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee – were made by the East Sepik Provincial government made to CCS Anvil
  • K375,799 in alleged unlawful payments were made by the Parliamentary Service to CCS Anvil (documented by the Public Accounts Committee)

Paga Hill Court Order 1 July 2014

Paga Hill Court Order 1 July 2014 p2

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 382 days and counting…

July 11, 2014 Leave a comment

382

It is now 382 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.

It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry.

O’Neill has promised to cancel the leases and stop the illegal logging several times and three weeks ago he announced an NEC decision ordering the cancellation of some of the leases

But we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 382 days O’Neill has failed to implement the Commission of Inquiry findings, failed to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

peter-o-neill

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 380 days and counting…

July 9, 2014 1 comment

380

revised_SABL_billboard-small

RH has become the government of PNG

July 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Professor Andrew Lattas*

I have just arrived back from Pomio, where the clear felling of the bush and subsequent oil palm planting are in full swing despite the fact that the vast majority of villagers oppose both. ..

Caption

The area clear felled is huge and stretches from Mauna, Lau, Bairaman Mu to Puapal where proposed oil palm plantings cross the Unung River and continue to Malakur. This huge area of land is being given away to Malaysian companies, indeed is being stolen from villagers with the active participation of the state and government officials

Villagers are powerless to stop these activities, which continue even though SABLs have recently supposedly been revoked. This looks likely to have the same status as the police Commissioner’s public order (Dec 2011) that police be pulled out of logging camp sites. The police never were removed. Indeed, it is only their continued presence, violence and intimidation that prevents villagers from setting up road blocks to protect their land, gardens and environment.

What is clear to me is that for most local villagers in Pomio the state has shifted away from them and is largely in the pockets of large Malaysian logging companies.

These companies control important governments departments and officials in crucial departments such as Lands, Forestry and the police force. The same applies to other officials in the District administration, Local Level Government, Provincial Administration and national government departments. Nearly all sectors of the state have been co-opted into coercive pro-development policies that seek to privatise land and resources without villagers consent.

Local workers  accommodation is matchbox size single rooms for families that are separated only by thin ply wood walls

Local workers accommodation is matchbox size single rooms for families that are separated only by thin ply wood walls

These logging companies were supported and gave support to the local national member for Pomio who is now in jail for corruption charges. The large funds of money these foreign companies provide at election time has transformed voting into a patron client relationship that props up local, provincial and national government politicians who support the Lease-Lease back schemes (SABLs).

Police and company directors often tell complaining villagers that the land is no longer theirs but belongs to the state which has leased it from them so as to lease it again to the Malaysian companies. The state has become the crucial intermediary in the forced process through which villagers lose control of their resources and especially their land. Much of this depends upon the production of dubious reports by the Lands Department, which collects and produces lists of signatures that are highly selective in that they are not the signatures of major clan leaders and of those who represent the majority of villagers.

The accommodation of Chinese management is at the top of the hill and luxurious by comparison

The accommodation of Chinese management is at the top of the hill and luxurious by comparison

Through the SABLs and the Private, Public Partnerships, the Somare government created two interlocking policies that have institutionalised corruption in PNG to a point where villagers find it almost impossible to achieve forms of justice concerning the fraudulent nature of state processes that have effectively dispossessed them of huge areas of land.

Officials in departments like forestry write reports that are not just wrong but are intentionally designed to conceal and legitimise the forced appropriation of land. For example, one “explanatory” letter by the local forestry official in Pomio concerns the late night visit of the armed riot squad to the village of Mu in 2012 where villagers were forced by police to sign English documents that they could not read. This was said to be not at all violent intimidation, but was simply the police correcting an administrative oversight. The riot squad had just gone to collect the names of villagers who had attended a recent meeting over logging, where record keeping had been poorly implemented. None of this explains the swearing and violent demeanour of the armed police and that the signatures were collected forcibly and from many who never went to the meeting. The state is not just incompetent but has become the crucial instrument for foreign large scale capital, it is state officials who seek to manage and placate opposition to the loss of vast areas of customary local land. They produce the dodgy reports that seek to sanitise and obscure what is actually happening on the ground.

Worker spraying herbicide in shorts and thongs, no boots, gloves, mask or overalls is provided. The wind blows the chemical spray onto the worker's body and clothing, endangering also his children and family when he returns to the village

Worker spraying herbicide in shorts and thongs, no boots, gloves, mask or overalls is provided. The wind blows the chemical spray onto the worker’s body and clothing, endangering also his children and family when he returns to the village

Recently RH [Rimbunan Hijau} has shifted tactics and there has been a movement away from using the violence of the riot squad to intimidate opponents. Instead there is a greater use of courts and restraining orders to prevent the organisation of protests. The cost of legal action has become another form of intimidation that is meant to penalise protesters and their leaders. The judiciary has now become co-opted into this realising a coercive development agenda that has little respect for people’s customary property rights.

__________

* Professor Andrew Lattas
Dept of Social Anthropology
University of Bergen Fosswinckelsgt. 6
5007 Bergen,
Norway
ph: + 47 55589261
e-mail: andrew.lattas@sosantr.uib.no<mailto:andrew.lattas@sosantr.uib.no>
http://www.uib.no/persons/Andrew.Lattas#publikasjoner
 
My new book Dreams, Madness, and Fairy Tales in New Britain is being published by Carolina Academic Press http://www.cap-press.com/isbn/9781594607271
http://www.amazon.com/Madness-Britain-Carolina-Academic-Monograph/dp/1594607273/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288341022&sr=1-2
 <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/0299158047/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books>[Dreams, Madness, and Fairy Tales in New Britain book jacket]
 http://www.amazon.com/Cultures-Secrecy-Reinventing-Directions-Writing/dp/0299158047
 
Recent writings:
Lattas, Andrew and Knut Rio. 2011. Securing modernity. Towards an ethnography of power in contemporary Melanesia. Oceania, 81 (1) 
Logging, landowner companies, military policing and the great resource rip off in PNG
Lattas, A. 2011. Logging, violence and pleasure. Neoliberalism, civil society and corporate governance in West New Britain. Oceania 81(1): 88-107.
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2012/04/pomio-logging-lawlessness-a-crisis-in-legitimacy.html
http://www.actnowpng.org/content/australian-academic-accused-playing-race-card-defend-malaysian-loggers
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2012/04/landowner-companies-a-money-siphoning-scam.html
Australian anthropology and the NT Intervention Lattas, A. 2012. Consultancy, Neo-Liberal Conservatism and the Politics of Anti-Politics, Oceania, 82 (1): 113-118 Lattas, A. and B. Morris. “Embedded Anthropology and the Intervention: cultural determinism and neo-liberal forms of racial governance,” Arena, Sept 2010. http://www.arena.org.au/2010/09/embedded-anthropology-and-the-intervention/

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 375 days and counting

July 4, 2014 3 comments

375

peter-o-neill

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