BY: Cedric Patjole on PNG Loop
A recently published discussion paper by the Australian National University (ANU) argues that the most significant organised crime in the Pacific involves the connection between political elites and illicit actors.
The discussion paper featured in the Development Policy Blog states that the social and economic disruption caused by this relationship is more serious than other types of organised crime.
“This means organised crime in the Pacific is less about tatts, drugs and gangs, and more about networks of politicians, business elites and assorted intermediaries,” states the report.
Authors, Sinclair Dinnen and Grant Walton from the ANU argue that the most visible of this connection is in the logging sector in PNG and the Solomon Islands.
They claim both countries have a long history of illegal logging facilitated by an alliance between Asian logging companies and local political actors.
“This collusion has resulted in “the blurring of legal and illegal trade in relation to formal export-oriented log production.”
The paper states that law enforcement is weak due to systematic issues of governance and institutional capabilities and is vulnerable to organized crime as well as immunity to corrupt local actors.
It further says few of these agencies are equipped to deal with the complex and increasingly transnational character of organised crime.
“Despite some success, cooperation against organised criminal activities, particularly those with political dimensions, has largely failed to live up to the lofty sentiments of various regional agreements.”
The authors say policy makers will need to unravel the elite transnational networks which have been enabled and strengthened by economic globalisation.
This means focusing on transnational businesses elites, politicians, government officials and intermediaries.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill still refuses to do anything to reverse the huge SABL land grab or stop the illegal logging.
So much for all his promises to revoke the unlawful leases and return the land to customary landholders!
It is now 1,204 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, more than three 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”.
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 1,204 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.