Oro government leads in the fight against illegal land grabbing

April 16, 2014 2 comments

From ACT NOW!

Gary Juffa opposition to SABL land grab exposes Peter O'Neill's inaction

Gary Juffa opposition to SABL land grab exposes Peter O’Neill’s inaction

While PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill sits on his hands refusing to cancel unlawful SABL leases and stop illegal logging, the Oro Provincial government is standing with its people against the Malaysian led land grab.

In a statement issued overnight, Oro Governor Gary Juffa has again committed his government to assist landowners:

“That the Oro Government stands by its people in fighting against land grabbing, illegal logging and is willing to support their court cases with its own legal team and attending as a party to all cases of such.

“We are also taking to task several companies who have obtained land illegally and will fight all this through the courts of PNG.

“My Government has placed a moratorium on all land dealings in Oro and it is still very much in force and will be with all dealings to be reviewed by a committee established at some time in the future.

“As for landgrabbers and their pokies playing, beer swilling, corridor walking scamming and scheming – Oro is closed for illegal business…we welcome genuine investors only…”

The position of the Oro Provincial government stands in stark contrast to the position of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who continues to protect the Malaysian logging companies who are making huge profits from their stolen timber.

Peter O’Neill has failed to implement the recommendations of the recent SABL land grab Commission of Inquiry which found the SABL leases had been unlawfully and fraudulently issued. The Commission recommended the unlawful leases be immediately revoked, but the Peter O’Neill led government has done nothing with those findings.

 

Solomon Islands disaster exposes Australia’s real agenda in the Pacific

April 16, 2014 1 comment

The response of the Australian and New Zealand governments and other Pacific powers to the crisis underscores their utter indifference to the plight of the country’s ordinary working people.

[RAMSIs] real purpose remains to maintain Australian and NZ economic and political domination over the under-developed nation and the wider southwest Pacific.

Canberra’s principal concern about this month’s flooding is revealed by its commitment of $600,000 for technical assistance to assess the damage to the Gold Ridge mine, which is operated by St Barbara, an Australian mining company.

RAMSI police officers were also dispatched to help secure the mine after St Barbara abandoned it following the flood.

Major floods devastate Solomon Islands

By Allan Leigh | WSWS

Torrential rain, high winds and severe flooding devastated Solomon Islands on April 3, killing 21 people, destroying thousands of homes, and displacing over 50,000 people, mainly in Guadalcanal province and the capital Honiara. The impoverished Pacific nation, which includes 300 separate islands, lies about 1,800 kilometres east of Papua New Guinea.

National Disaster Management Office chief Loti Yates said: “This is by far the worst flooding I have witnessed since heading this organisation—the scale and magnitude is overwhelming.”

As of yesterday, two people remained missing, with at least 10,000 homeless in Honiara alone. The Isabel, Makira and Malaita islands are among the other Solomons provinces severely impacted. Extensive damage to basic infrastructure, however, has made it impossible to fully assess the impact in communities outside the capital.

Honiara and other parts of Guadalcanal have been declared disaster zones, with major damage to roads, water pipes and sewerage systems. Honiara’s Chinatown Bridge collapsed last Thursday, splitting the city in two. According to the Solomon Islands Water Authority, 50 percent of the capital, which has a population of about 65,000, has no access to safe water and it could be weeks before supplies are restored.

Aid organisations have warned that diseases such as dysentery, malaria and dengue fever could spread and seriously worsen the catastrophe. Solomons Islands Save the Children Fund spokesman Graham Kenna told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that a dengue fever outbreak had already begun before the floods and warned that the numbers hit by the disease would rapidly increase.

The response of the Australian and New Zealand governments and other Pacific powers to the crisis underscores their utter indifference to the plight of the country’s ordinary working people.

Australia offered $3 million in total, with only $2 million for “immediate humanitarian needs.” New Zealand promised $1.12 million, with only $281,000 for agencies directly working with the flood-affected people. The US pledged just over $100,000 for emergency relief through the French Red Cross Society.

This is for one of the poorest countries on the planet, lacking the resources and infrastructure to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. Solomon Islands has a gross domestic product of approximately $2,500 per person—ranked 177th in the world.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the remaining $1 million of Canberra’s “aid” would be used to send Australian Civilian Corps engineers, Australian Government Rapid Response Team members and a dozen Australian Defence Force personnel to the Solomons.

Australian Federal Police attached to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which was established in 2003, are also involved.

The RAMSI intervention, cynically codenamed Operation Helpem Fren (Help a Friend), has always been promoted by the Australian and New Zealand governments and the mainstream media as an “aid mission.” Its real purpose remains to maintain Australian and NZ economic and political domination over the under-developed nation and the wider southwest Pacific.

Alongside RAMSI troops and police contingents, Australian and NZ officials took control of key government posts, refashioning the state apparatus in line with the interests of Canberra and Wellington. More than 10 years on, the mayhem and human suffering caused by the flooding underscores the fact that RAMSI was never about uplifting the country’s facilities and living standards.

No RAMSI resources were allocated to establish adequate health services and other vital infrastructure, or the sort of equipment required to respond to flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

RAMSI’s military forces were withdrawn in 2012, but about 100 Australian Federal Police remain, at a budgeted cost of $500 million over four years—many times more than the flood aid. Contingency plans no doubt exist for troops to return whenever Canberra and Wellington consider there is a threat to their imperialist interests.

Canberra’s principal concern about this month’s flooding is revealed by its commitment of $600,000 for technical assistance to assess the damage to the Gold Ridge mine, which is operated by St Barbara, an Australian mining company.

RAMSI police officers were also dispatched to help secure the mine after St Barbara abandoned it following the flood. There is widespread speculation over the mine’s future because of recent falls in St Barbara’s share values.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo warned parliament that protection of the mine and re-building of the severely damaged Mataniko Bridge, which provides access to the mine, were priorities.

“If this bridge collapses,” he said, “policing in town [Honiara] would be in real danger and the normal flow of social and economic services would be really affected … What we have done last night is deploy members of the Police Response Team to go and maintain security up there [to Gold Ridge] because that asset belongs to the state.”

Lilo’s government approved a $SI15 million fund ($A2.19 million) to be distributed to members of parliament, with each MP receiving $SI300,000. The Pacific Media Centre reported that some MPs visited evacuation centres around Honiara, distributing assistance to those they thought would vote for them in national elections later this year.

On April 8, the National Disaster Operations Committee said it was safe for people to leave the overcrowded and inadequate evacuation centres and return home. But more than 50,000 people remain homeless, with no access to clean water and basic food supplies.

The so-called aid pledged by Australia and New Zealand will barely provide for the immediate food and water needs of flood victims, let alone rebuild their houses and villages. Those rendered homeless will be forced to live in tents and other makeshift shelters for months.

Made in China: Momis failing the people of Bougainville

April 15, 2014 2 comments

Via PNG Mine Watch

Made In China

 

 

 

 

Australian ‘aid’ aims to ensure Bougainville subservience

April 9, 2014 7 comments

The Australian government has already assumed the role of regional sheriff and wants to sit astride a region of compliant states and micro-states. This means other countries markets and resources should be open to foreign capital without barriers such as the muscular protection of landowner rights, or strong environmental laws. Australia is targeting its aid spending to ensure Bougainville fits this model.

Whatever the future for Bougainville, Australia wants to ensure the island is a subservient neighbor providing a supporting role to Australia’s own economic and political interests. Australia is therefore targeting its aid spending to ensure that outcome, placing consultants in key political and financial roles and neglecting health and other people-centered sectors.

Australia’s emphasis is clearly demonstrated in new figures that show the breakdown of aid spending by Australia on consultants for the resource-rich island of Bougianville.

Figures released by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (see below) show that over 90% of $2.9 million per annum spent on the wages of consultant working for Australia on Bougainville is directed at ensuring Australian political structures, policy priorities, economic models, and security interests dominate in the new Bougainville government and bureaucracy.

In contrast, less than 9% of spending is targeted at health and HIV prevention and Australia is spending NOTHING on consultants for agriculture development, extension services to support self-sufficiency or women’s and youth programs.

In all, Australia is funding 22 consultant positions on Bougainville. Twenty-one of those consultants are working on governance, law and justice and mining programs.

Over half the consultants are working directly with government departments, writing legislation and advising on the drafting of policy, financial management and  procurement.

This all means Australia in a powerful position to ensure its interests and those of its largest corporations are well taken care of in Bougainville’s future.

As a state-builder, Australia builds in its own image, and wants to ensure Melanesian countries act as stewards for foreign companies rather than as the protectors of their own citizens. As a result the people have already had to suffer at the hands of transnational corporations like Rio Tinto, BHP, Rimbunan Hijau and Exxon-Mobil – and it looks as if Bougainville will continue the trend…

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When will Rio Tinto Face Justice for its Crimes on Bougainville?

April 7, 2014 4 comments

The Bougainville Truth Initiative

Its that time of year again, where Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) celebrates its impunity from prosecution by declaring its resolve to re-enter Bougainville and scoop up what’s left of the mineral deposit they were forced to leave, when landowners closed their environmentally catastrophic operation.

In BCL’s 2013 annual report, published last week, the company’s Chairman gloats about escaping civil liability in the US courts on jurisdictional grounds.

“The action”, the Chairman argues, “which sought to invite a foreign court to decide on local PNG matters, in the company’s view sent a negative message about PNG and Bougainville and has not been helpful in attracting investors”.

If investors are deterred by the prospect of being found liable for gross human rights abuses they have helped author, perhaps these are not the type of investors PNG should be courting!

BCL has also been given moral support from the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Australian legal advisor – recently revealed to have been paid $270,000 – K680,000 in Bougainville aid money – who went on the record to claim “credible evidence is yet to emerge” proving the allegations against Rio Tinto made in the United States.

Despite sophisticated efforts to deny and deceive landowning communities for a second time, the gravity of BCL’s actions are well known on the ground.

Below are some examples of why communities are fighting BCL’s return.

Anyone as disgusted as we are by this evidence can join the international campaign to bring Rio Tinto to justice for its deplorable actions on Bougainville: http://www.jubileeaustralia.org/2013/campaigns/notonmywatch/bougainville

BCL’s Managing Director Declares Support for PNGDF Offensives 

In this meeting with PNG Prime Minister, RJC – Robert Cornelius, BCL’s Managing Director – applauds security force offensive operations, and even identifies civilian targets to ‘apprehend’. Not involved in military operations?

BCL Supports Military Operations image

 BCL Provides Logistic Support for Military Operations

PNGDF officer, and acclaimed author, Yauka Liria, recounts the wide-ranging support BCL lent the security forces.

Declaration of Yauka Aluambo Liria p3Declaration of Yauka Aluambo Liria p4Declaration of Yauka Aluambo Liria p5Declaration of Yauka Aluambo Liria p6Declaration of Yauka Aluambo Liria p7Source: ‘Declaration of Yauka Aluambo Liria’, Alexis Holyweek Sarei, et el.,v Rio Tinto, plc. et al., Case No. 00-11695 MMM AIJx, United States District Court – Central District of California, Western Division, 2001.

Australian academics paid $500,000 over two years for mining work on Bougainville

April 3, 2014 6 comments

Question_on_Notice

Two Australian academics have been paid almost $500,000 by the Australian government for two years work towards reopening the Panguna mine in Bougainville.

The figures have been revealed by the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.

Bougainville has twice rejected Regan's controversial new Mining Law

Bougainville has twice rejected Regan’s controversial new Mining Law paid for by Australia

Controversial ABG advisor Anthony Regan has been paid over $270,000 – K680,000 – for his work drafting a controversial new Mining Law and other legislation.

Regan’s draft law has twice been rejected by the people pf Bougainville as being too biased in favor of foreign mining companies including Rio Tinto.

The figure revealed by the Committee as paid to Regan includes reimbursable travel costs and covers the period from June 2011 to November 2013.

A second Australian academic Ciaron O’Faircheallaigh has been paid $215,000 over two years for his work on negotiation “of a mining agreement to govern the Panguna mine”.

In total Australia is funding 22 ‘advisor’ positions in Bougainville – at an annual cost of $2.9 million in 2012/13. Some of the positions are full-time, some part-time and some are currently vacant according to the Committee.

Papua New Guinea University of Technology’s exiled V-C fights to return

March 27, 2014 9 comments

David Matthews | Times Education Supplement

Students protest in support of Dutch-born university head Albert Schram, expelled by the government in 2013

Source: Ronnie Noan

Source: Ronnie Noan

Flying the flag for Schram: Unitech students march in protest to get their vice-chancellor reinstated after his sudden, unexplained deportation in February 2013

Albert Schram is a university leader in exile. He is the vice-chancellor of Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech), but in February 2013 he was deported and has been forced to live in Australia ever since.

Schram has even been declared a “threat to national security” by the country’s former higher education minister.

His bizarre tale sheds an extraordinary light on the parlous state of higher education in Papua New Guinea, where, according to Schram, tribal fights erupt on campus, support staff live in slums and scholars are cut off from the wider scholarly community and current research.

But Schram is hopeful that he will return and believes that a series of simple reforms could help to improve the nation’s universities, many of which could be carried out without requiring additional funding from the impoverished Pacific country.

Before taking up the vice-chancellor’s post in February 2012, Dutch-born Schram worked in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in sustainable development policy and environmental economics.

When he arrived at Unitech, which is located near Lae in Morobe province and is one of the country’s two major state universities, he was faced with an almost insurmountable set of challenges.

The year before Schram arrived, he says, there had been a “huge fight” between two groups of students, who were divided along tribal lines, in which one student died.

In 2012, with tensions once again mounting between the rival tribes, he was told by one of the group’s student leaders: “I can’t hold my boys any more.” According to Schram, campus security officers had to fire their guns into the air to stop another all-out battle.

Fortunately, the leaders of the two tribal groups were able to resolve their differences through dialogue, and the gangs formalised this with a “beautiful” traditional reconciliation dance, he recounts.

Malaria is endemic on campus, Schram explains, although students “seldom” die. When he became vice-chancellor, he instituted monthly sprayings of the site with insecticide to combat the disease. Tuberculosis is also a serious “threat” at the university, he adds.

The university typically experiences 10 to 15 power cuts a day, which plays “havoc” with servers required for internet access, and thus “we don’t have reliable broadband on campus”, he says. Instead, the university has to resort to a satellite connection to access the web.

“It’s really terrible,” Schram says, adding with irony that Papua New Guinea is “one of the countries where you’re sufficiently ‘protected’ from the internet”.

Partly for this reason, Unitech academics – 5 to 10 per cent of whom are from outside Papua New Guinea – have little access to work already done in their fields, and therefore must conduct “original” research. However, in such a situation, “you risk inventing the wheel many times over”, Schram observes.

But even these pursuits can be luxuries for scholars. In Papua New Guinea, Schram says, “universities are understaffed, the teaching loads are high, so there’s no time for research”.

Salaries for academics are far from competitive, he notes, limiting Unitech’s ability to attract even local scholars.

The university’s academics are at least lucky enough to have proper housing provided for them by the university. Support staff, however, are paid about $500 (£300) a month, Schram says, and have to live in what he calls “dangerous and unlicensed” slums.

Officially, the government should grant the university about $15,000 a year to educate each student, according to Schram. (About 1,000 science and engineering students graduate from Unitech annually.)

But in reality only about half of this per-student funding is actually received. “The only solution is that universities run up their debt and that’s what’s been happening,” he adds.

‘Right noises’, but no funding

Last July, the media reported that David Arore, then minister for higher education, research, science and technology, had pledged an extra $222 million in funding for the country’s university sector.

“The policies are good on paper and the ministers make the right noises in Parliament,” Schram says. But since the announcement, nothing has materialised, he claims.

“My criticism [of the government] is that they are breaking the promises they made to invest in infrastructure. All the vice-chancellors complain about that. Our core grant is way too low,” Schram adds.

Times Higher Education tried to contact the Office of Higher Education in Papua New Guinea for comment, but did not receive a response.

To be fair to the country’s government, Unitech is operating in a desperately poor country where four out of 10 children do not even attend primary school, according to the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

A mere 6.8 per cent of women above the age of 25 have at least a secondary level of education. For men, the proportion – 14.1 per cent – is higher, but hardly encouraging.

But as if all these challenges were not enough, in February last year, Schram says, events took a baffling twist for him.

Returning from Singapore on business, Schram was stopped at the airport in Papua New Guinea and told he would not be allowed into the country. A call to the prime minister’s office by an immigration official confirmed he was barred from entry, Schram says.

He was promptly deported to Brisbane. In March, he attempted to return again, and was again deported. In April, although he did manage to return briefly for a graduation ceremony, his visa was cancelled, and an application for a new one has so far been unsuccessful.

‘Fraud exposure’ said to be a factor

Schram says he has been given no official reason for his expulsion. However, he suspects that an investigation he carried out into Unitech’s infrastructure spending, which according to him “exposed fraud”, is connected to his deportation.
It has not been possible to verify Schram’s account, as the ministry did not answer THE’s questions.

Since then, there has been a struggle within Papua New Guinea over whether Schram should be allowed to return.

After his initial deportation, an investigation was launched by the university into accusations that Schram had falsified details on his CV. The vice-chancellor claims that the investigation found no evidence for the “silly and baseless” accusations.

Arore, who was charged with bribery and graft in March 2013, according to reports in The Australian, seems to have been a particular nemesis for Schram.

In a television interview broadcast last December, Arore directed the university to remove Schram from its payroll. (Schram confirms that he has continued to receive his salary throughout his exile, and he is still listed on the university’s website as vice-chancellor.)

Arore also said that Schram “has become a threat to the national security of this country…because of his presence in this country students are revolting”.

However, Schram has not been present in the country since April 2013, and a number of protests by Unitech students have been in favour of his reinstatement, not against it.

According to the university’s current chancellor, Sir Nagora Bogan, there was a “stand-off” between Schram and the former Unitech council.

This hostile council has now been replaced by the government to “help bring stability and restore governance and prudential controls”, says Bogan. The new council wants to ensure that Schram returns to the university, he tells THE.

Chances of return increased

With Arore no longer in charge of higher education, and the appointment this month of Delilah Gore as his replacement, Schram initially believed that his chances of return had increased.

However, on 13 March, after a number of pro-Schram protests by Unitech students over the previous month, Gore released a statement calling for students to return to their classes. If they did not, she said, a state of emergency would be declared on campus and the 2014 academic year would be cancelled.

After the resolution of legal proceedings around the Schram controversy, she said, the position of vice-chancellor at Unitech would be readvertised and open to all applicants, “including Albert Schram”.

But given that the university council still holds Schram to be the vice-chancellor, this announcement “flies in the face” of respect for “due process and the law”, Schram says.

If he does return, Schram believes that there are a number of reforms the government needs to make urgently, such as stopping “political interference and cronyism” in universities and “barring fly-by-night private universities” from entering the system.

“This is not hard to do: it requires adequate university management, and the political will of the government to carry out its agreed and published higher education policies,” he told Unitech students in an address at the beginning of the academic year in January.

But, in a telling illustration of the dysfunction of the country’s higher education system as clear as any of his arguments, Unitech’s vice-chancellor was obliged to address his students via YouTube from Australia, his exile still not at an end.

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