You could almost feel sorry for Rimbunan Hijau (RH) if it weren’t for the fact they ARE Rimbunan Hijau. Since they sent the thugs over to Pomio to intimidate the landowners (who btw respected the law and attended the SABL Commission of Inquiry instead of getting violent LIKE RH) to their ridiculous attempt to put a negative spin on Greenpeace (Alan Oxley has had his influence -again to no avail) to their latest attempt to have Malum Nalu tell the story for them – they have failed miserably.
The most encouraging thing besides the landowners still being strong has been the most incredible analysis on the numerous blogs about the situation in Pomio. It is clear that RH has is bumbling its way along. Damn bribes and force – are being seen for what they are RH. In addition the failure of Malum Nalu (partly his own by trying to make himself a hero by even going into the area) to convince anyone who wasn’t already working for RH or other large scale extractive industries – that RH were good guys in all this – has been most impressive. Mr. Nalum who is a fine writer has been under attack – and rightfully so – as his defense has been weak. But the extent of the analysis by his detractors has been impressive as have the fact that fewer and fewer people – buy the RH line is most encouraging.
Things seem to be changing in PNG and change begins with the mindset of the people from the village to the top. Despite a company like RH who has the money – uses the money – uses thugs and buys politicians – still people are resisting. That includes their hilarious attempt to use locals to bring a case against their rival newspaper The Post Courier with the PNG Media Council. No one buys it.
So good on the people of Pomio, the bloggers who write about it and the people who are speaking out. Keep it up. We can still make the companies more responsible – you are proving it. And remember if you call them out you are simply anti-development. They don’t get it al all do they?
Respected journalist Alexander Rheeney has published an article [see below] about the controversy over logging inside Special-purpose Business lease areas that stands in stark contrast to the public relations spin Malum Nalu has been publishing  on behalf of his employer, Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau. No one objects to Nalu working as a paid apologist for RH – but he should admit the connection and not pretend his stories are valid news reports. It is time for Malum Nalu to take some lessons from Alex Rheeney on journalistic ethics! See for example http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/oh-dear-malum-nalu-surely-you-should-know-better/
Greenpeace ship returns to PNG amid controversy
Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza will get into the Papua New Guinea (PNG) capital Port Moresby on Saturday amidst controversy with local authorities charging it breached customs laws.
The vessel is returning from New Britain Island where it led a campaign to bring global attention to PNG’s controversial special agriculture and business leases (SABL).
The lease for the Sigite Mukus Integrated Rural Development Project in New Britain’s Pomio area is owned by the Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau (RH) and was issued under the SABL. But the oil palm project has been immersed in controversy with villagers oppossed to it leading protests against the developer.
Greenpeace said it was invited to Pomio by landowners to join the protests and alleged that the Pomio SABL was fraudulently obtained, which the logging company has denied.
Local newspaper The National, a subsidiary of RH, reported in its October 28, 2011 edition that the MV Esperanza breached customs regulations when it sailed directly to Pomio instead of Port Moresby. The newspaper also ran a story on the inside pages of the same edition with the headline “Greenpeace warned to stay out of Pomio” and attributed it to “a majority of Pomio villagers” whom it claimed supported its project.
The standoff in Pomio between villagers who support and oppose the project as well as reports of brutality allegedly perpetrated by policemen who were flown to the project site by the company has become a hot topic in PNG social media networks.
In one post in a Facebook group which attracted 67 comments some called on Papua New Guineans to boycott RH businesses and products, while others condemned the close relationship between PNG politicians and the logging industry. There was also acknowledgement that the lack of basic infrastructure and services in rural areas made communities vulnerable to fly-by-night investors.
The Somare government established the SABL to increase economic activity in rural areas and enable local communities to benefit from spin-off business activities. However according to Greenpeace, the PNG Department of Lands and Physical Planning has approved 74 SABLs since 2003 covering 5.2 million hectares of forested customary land. This translates to 11 per cent of PNG’s total land area or about 18 per cent of its remaining forest.
Concerns by international scientists and the United Nations about the effects of SABLs on rural communities compelled then acting Prime Minister Sam Abal to set up a commission of inquiry. The inquiry continues.
Early this month acting police commissioner Tom Kulunga announced the establishment of a formal investigation into allegations of brutality by policemen who were flown into Pomio by the logging company. The top cop assured the public that disciplinary action will be taken against police officers who acted outside their powers.
Sep Galeva, a PNG landowner who was instrumental in exposing the illegalities of another Malaysian logging company Concord Pacific, warned that loggers left behind destruction and marginalised communities after they harvested all the logs and made their exit.