Today is international human rights day, and the United Nations, USAid and AusAID are inviting us all to celebrate in the home of PNG’s worst human rights abuser, Rimbunan Hijau.
Vision City is a glittering monument to the human rights abuses, illegal logging, land grabbing and environmental destruction heaped on PNG for over 25 years by its owner, the Malaysian logging giant RH.
The Vision City celebration is being sponsored by the CIMC, AusAID and USAid, who all like to trumpet their supposed opposition to corruption and belief in human rights – what a joke!
Rimbunan Hijau’s abuses have been documented in numerous reports and investigations including by the Ombudsman Commission, SABL Commission of Inquiry, World Bank, Greenpeace, Global Witness and Oakland Institute and SBS.
Malaysian illegal logger and politician repays O’Neill for keeping SABL with 8 new town houses valued AT K1 million each
By PAULUS PARAKA – PNG Blogs
Out at Waigani, behind the new National Conference Centre, a large residential village of 50 or so duplexes is being built by the little known foreign company Jaya & Berjaya Construction (PNG) Ltd.
Jaya & Berjaya is owned by Malaysian tycoon, politician and illegal logger Huang Tiong Sii, who in his many years of doing business here has made many valuable friends and contacts in high places. None comes higher than the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, and that is probably why Tiong has given him four of the duplexes, a total of eight town houses, to use as his own.
O’Neill recently visited the development to look over his gift, which is a valuable addition to his large and ill-gotten real estate portfolio, and expressed his satisfaction and gratitude to Tiong. The townhouses are valued at a minimum of K1 million each, so the total value of the gift to O’Neill could be as high as K8 million.
It is not known whether O’Neill intends to take the rent from the houses or to sell them and keep the proceeds. The Prime Minister has substantial real estate interests in PNG and Australia (on the Gold Coast and in Sydney where the properties are in other people’s names) and he was recently looking to buy penthouses in New York. Huang Tiong Sii is well known in Malyasia as a criminal warlord and politician who has family and business connections to Rimbunan Hijau and other illegal loggers. He is also a money-launderer through companies in the Cayman Islands.
He has substantial logging interests in PNG, including SABLs, which is believed to be the reason for his generosity towards the Prime Minister (in the same way Tiong was generous to former Prime Minister Michael Somare). O’Neill has repeatedly promised in recent years to cancel all SABLs. He told Parliament in 2013: “We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”.
But O’Neill has too much to gain from loggers like Tiong and Rimbunan Hijau, especially with his 2017 election campaign already under way and demand for cash to bribe the Electoral Commission, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, other candidates, voters, criminal gangs, the mainstream media and so on. Tiong’s tactics in Malaysia (mainly Sarawak) are similar to those used by O’Neill – including bribery of politicians, police and other government officials on a vast scale, and intimidation and physical violence against landowners. They make a good partnership, with many interests and activities in common.
The promises from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill keep coming, but we are still waiting to see ANY ACTION to reverse the huge SABL land grab; still waiting to see ANY ACTION to return the land to customary landholders; and, still waiting to see ANY ACTION to stop the illegal logging in SABL areas.
It is now 1,260 days since the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement that has allowed foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.
Since June 2013, almost three-and-a-half years ago, O’Neill has REPEATEDLY promised us the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.
In September 2013, O’Neill said in Parliament:
“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”
In June 2014, announcing an NEC decision supposedly cancelling the leases, O’Neill said
“We are taking these steps to reclaim our customary land illegally lost to foreigners with the help of corrupt public servants and leaders”
“As a responsible government we want to ensure that all citizens have access to the lands of their ancestors. We will not allow our land to be lost to unscrupulous people out to con our people”
In 2015 the Chief Secretary stated:
“It is widely known that vast amounts of pristine forest have been logged to enrich a corrupt few people, while landowners have unknowingly lost their most valuable asset – their land”.
And just a few weeks ago, on November 4, O’Neill told Parliament and the Nation:
“I am pleased to say that all the SABL leases to be cancelled, instruction has now gone to the Lands Dept and as of today I can assure you that leases are now being cancelled and where there are projects now existing, we’ve encouraged the landowners to renegotiate many of those leases arrangements that they have made with the developers.
“These leases were given without much thought in the past. As a result, a lot of the landowners stood to lose all their years of generations of ownership over the land that they have had for many years.
“We do not want the rightful landowners lose their rights to land.
“That is why we have instructed the department of Lands and Forestry to cancel all the SABL.”
But, despite all the promises, no action has been taken to cancel the leases, landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the logging to be stopped.
For 1,260 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests 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.
Recent media reports say a Chinese company, Jaba Joint Development, is illegally dredging for gold on the Jaba river in Bougainville.
It is claimed Jaba Joint Development was allowed into the Panguna area by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and its suspect Commerce Minister, Fidelis Semoso, originally to make bricks, but has now set up a substantial gold dredging operation.
Bougainville News has quoted local landowners as saying Jaba Joint Development is 95% Chinese owned with a small minority interest held by ‘certain landowners’ and the ABG.
Official company records, however, show a rather different ownership picture involving New Zealander Liqun Pan, Bougainville local, Chris Dendai and links to Hong Kong, Australia and the British Virgin Islands as well as property in both Cairns and Auckland.
Jaba Joint Development Limited was registered with the Investment Promotion Authority in Port Moresby, in November 2014.
According to IPA records, the company is owned by two individuals, Chris Dendai and Liqun Pan, a New Zealand citizen. They are also the company directors. Dendai and Pan each holds 50% of the shares in Jaba Joint Development.
Interestingly, although the IPA shows Dendai and Pan as the shareholders of Jaba Joint Development, in the original application to register the company two different shareholders were proposed: Tumpusiong Resources Limited and a Hong Kong registered, Chinese company, Timesview Resources Development Limited.
Tumpusiong Resource Limited is a PNG registered company with 14 men listed as shareholders, including Chris Dendai, all from Darenai village in the Panguna region of Bougainville. According to its filed annual returns, Tumpusiong is a company that is involved in brick making.
Timesview Resources was registered in Hong Kong on 26 November 2014, the same date as the application to register Jaba Joint Development in PNG was made. Timesview Resources was deregistered in Hong Kong in August 2016.
Timesview Resources was majority owned by Timesview International Group, which has Liqun Pan listed as a minority shareholder. The largest shareholder in TIG is Chuen Hing Petroleum & Chemicals Holdings Limited – a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Documents filed with the IPA in Port Moresby do not show how or when the ownership of Jaba Joint Development was switched from Tumpusiong Resources and Timesview Resources Development to Chris Dendai and Liqun Pan, which prompts the question whether the people of Darenai village are aware of the switch?
Liqun Pan, who remember holds half the shares in Jaba Joint Development, has a registered address at 4 Bramley Drive, Farm Cove in the south Auckland suburb of Manakau and is also the owner of two New Zealand registered companies; Niae Trustee, with Li Hui, and Cypco Biotechnology.
Liqun Pan and Li Hui also own the Australian registered company Niae Pty Limited and together own a home in Cairns, North Queensland. No. 4 Finchley Close in the suburb of Redlynch was purchased by Pan and Hui in May 2013 for $570,000.
Liqun Pan and Li Hui are also connected through their joint ownership of Inae Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. That connection is revealed in the ‘Panama Papers’ leaked from the now infamous law firm Mossack Fonseca…
Can anyone explain how Liqan Pan and Chris Dendai ended up running an allegedly illegal gold dredging operation on the Jaba river?
Source: Gabriel Thoumi – ValueWalk
In December 2012, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) bought 51% of the equity in Collingwood Plantations Pte (CWB) via KLK Overseas Investments Limited for $8.7 million. At the time, according to AmInvesment Bank, the assumed production costs from clearing to palm oil production for the new plantation were $6,000 per ha.
In KLK’s 2013 Annual Report, the company estimated that it would develop 30,000 ha of oil palm in Collingwood Bay. The area is known for its pristine primary forests and coral reefs, containing high levels of biodiversity. Prior to KLK’s entry, the Collingwood Bay Indigenous communities had secured a court order that prohibited all natural resource related national government agencies from entering the bay without the landowners’ prior consent.
Collingwood Bay’s Indigenous communities successfully contested KLK’s plantation plans in the Papua New Guinea courts, which declared KLK’s two main leases null and void in May 2014.
In October, KLK confirmed that it has withdrawn all interest in the development of two portions of customary land (Portion 113C and 143C) in Collingwood Bay. A smaller third State Land portion – Lot 5 which is 5,992 ha – is still being reviewed, according to KLK. Without access to the other lots, however, it is uncertain if the size of Lot 5 is economically feasible to develop on its own because it also mostly covered with primary and High Carbon Stock forest.
In a statement KLK publicly committed to sell off by December 2016 its land clearing equipment stored in Wanigela, Collingwood Bay and confirmed that KLK and / or its agents will exclude the cultivation of palm oil as a development option on Lot 5. Concerns remain, however, if the land-clearing machinery is sold to KLK Overseas Investments Limited joint venture partner ANG Agro Forest Management to facilitate logging and other activities in the primary forests of Lot 5.
KLK has not clarified its overall plans for its overall $8.7 million investment Collingwood Plantations Pte, its total land bank of 44,342 ha in the region or its 37,000 ha plantation deal in Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. According to agronomists and a 1992 government soil survey, the Sepik Province plantation deal is on land that has been found to be unsuitable for tree crops.
The Department of Lands is still ignoring the SABL Commission of Inquiry findings and dealing with SABL leases found to have been illegally issued and recommended to be revoked, as if there is nothing wrong with them.
The Department has recently issued an Official Copy of the State Lease over Portion 17C in Oro Province despite clear findings by the SABL Commission of Inquiry, published in 2013, the lease was “improper and unlawful” and should be “revoked forthwith”.
The CoI found some landowner signatures were fraudulently acquired and concluded:
“All in all, the COI found that the issuing of the SABL over Portion 17C to MVMCL [Musa Valley Management Company Limited] which was then sub-leased to MCL [Musa Century Limited] was improper and unlawful”.
“We also found that consent were not obtained from the majority of the landowners to lease their land for the SABL on Portion 17C. In addition, the SABL is not founded upon a proper Lease-Lease back instrument in accordance with Sections 11 and 102 of the Land Act and therefore, is defective and void”.
“We found therefore, that the SABL over Portion 17C was improperly and unlawfully granted to MVMCL and therefore, any subsequent sub-lease arrangements would be also be deemed to be void and of no effect”.
“We recommend that the SABL over Portion 17C in the Musa-Pongani area issued to MVMCL and sub-leased to MCL is to be REVOKED forthwith.”
(CoI report [pdf], pages 218 and 219)
The CoI also found:
“The developer MCL is not interested in developing the oil palm and cattle project but rather using them as an excuse/guise to obtain a Forest Clearance Authority (FCA) and embark on a full scale logging operations instead” (page 214)
Despite these clear findings, the Department of Lands is carrying on as if nothing is wrong wth the leases – action that suggests the corruption and mismanagement in the Department is still flourishing.
The findings of the Commission of Inquiry
Not all the landowners consented to the SABL over Portion 17C and there were substantiated allegations of fraudulent conduct by government officials and company representatives.
The land investigation process was not properly carried out and the Land Investigation Report was incomplete and unreliable. The Provincial Lands Officer was ‘forced’ to sign a LIR prepared by someone not employed by the Department and with no input from the Provincial Lands Office.
There was no proper awareness carried out to inform people about the proposed agriculture projects.
The Agriculture Development Plan was ‘sketchy and vague’ leading the CoI to conclude:
“the developer MCL is not interested in developing the oil palm and cattle project but rather using them as an excuse/guise to obtain a Forest Clearance Authority (FCA) and embark on a full scale logging operation instead”
“An estimated 90% of the land (Portion 17C) is thickly forested (with high quality merchantable logs)” (page 214)
“We found that very little awareness was carried out on the SABL over Portion 17C in the Musa-Pongani area. The majority of the affected landowners were not consulted and have not participated in any meetings or hearings held to gauge landowner’s views and agreements on the SABL as part of the land investigation process. Majority of the landowners have not given their ‘informed consent’ to lease their land for SABL and have not signed any documents to indicate their agreement and consent. Some signatures were fraudulently obtained. The informed consent of the customary landowners to lease their customary land is the most fundamental primary requirement to issuing an SABL and without such consent been properly obtained no SABL can be issued. We discovered that majority of the landowners in the villages in and around the Musa-Pongani area were not involved and did not participate in the initial application stages to obtain an SABL over Portion 17C”. (p217)
The history of the SABL over Portion 17C
The SABL over Portion 17C in fact started life as a smaller (211,600ha) lease over Portion 16C.
In December 2008 the land was acquired by the State through a 99 year lease and leased to Musida Holdings (a company owned and controlled by some of the landholders).
These leases were challenged in a court case – Musa Valley Management Company and Musa Century Limited v Lands Secretary, Lands Minister and Musida Holdings (2010).
The National Court found the leases were ‘seriously flawed’ and declared them null and void for a failure to follow proper process under the Land Act and significant errors of law, in particular securing the consent of customary landowners to both leases.
MVMC is owned and controlled by a different group of landowners promoting their own preferred developer of an agro-forestry project. The Commission of Inquiry later concluded MHL was formed by landowners living in the Musa-Pongani area and MVMC was formed by landowners living in POM.
A Notice of Revocation of the SABL over Portion 16C was issued by the Department of Lands in February 2010 and published in the National Gazette.
But the fraud and illegality did not stop there. A new lease was then granted in Sept 2010 to MVMC over the larger (320,060ha) Portion 17C (which incorporates 16C). The SABL was supposedly issued for the purpose of oil palm and cattle projects.
MVMC then sub-leased the land to MCL, a company 99.9% owned by a Malaysian, Kem San GO.
These leases were found by the Commission of Inquiry to have been illegally issued and were recommended to be revoked – but the Department of Lands is ignoring those findings.