The National Court has awarded damages of K226 million to the women and children of Kiunga-Aiambak whose lives and forests were destroyed through illegal logging by Concord Pacific.
But the victims of this tragedy are unlikely to ever see a single toea in compensation as Concord Pacific exited the scene many years ago.
Menawhile the politicains and bureaucrats who facilitated and supported Concord Pacific’s illegal activities or who chose to turn a blind eye to what they knew was an illegal and destructive logging operation walk freely among us and will never pay for their own crimes.
This is just one more example of the fact that our laws protect the evil and corrupt while the innocent victims of their greed and selfishness suffer the consequences largely unnoticed.
Lawyer Paul Paraka and ex Solicitor General Zacchary Gelu were back in court Friday trying to ensure the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry report, which heavily implicates both men in massive corruption and fraud, remains under wraps.
The findings of the Commission of Inquiry, which were handed to the Prime Minister in December 2009, have not been officially published and the people, including Paraka and Gelu, implicated in the theft of K780 million, have not been arrested or charged because the two men have a court injunction preventing publication or any criminal action against them. The injunction was granted by Justice Sakora in March 2010.
The State of Papua New Guinea is now applying to have the court injunction lifted after a successful campaign against the Prime Minister’s department by civil society groups determined to ensure the Finance Inquiry findings did not get buried.
The application to remove the injunction was originally heard by Justice Mark Sevua in June 2010, but he failed to give his verdict before his contract of employment was not renewed and he was removed from the bench.
The matter was then listed before Judge Thompson, but Paraka and Zelu have decided to challenge her impartiality and have applied to have her disqualified from hearing the case. Their argument is based on the fact that Thompson had a minor role in the processing of complaints against Paraka arising from his acting for the Eastern Highlands Provincial Government and in relation to POSF matters.
Legal commentators say that the latest moves from Paraka and Gelu are pretty much baseless as Thompson had little if anything to do with either of the complaints and did not participate in any decisions involving Paraka, but are part of the strategy by the two men to raise every possible objection so that the proceedings are delayed for as long as possible and, hopefully to stop the Commission findings ever been acted upon.
Judge Thompson has reserved her decision on whether she will disqualify herself from hearing the application to have the injunction lifted so we are really no further forward in seeing justice being done and Paraka and Gelu facing the full force of the law.
You can read more about the role of Paul Paraka and Zacchary Gelu in the theft of K780 million kina here:
PAPUA New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has accused Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) of being behind the PNG military’s bloody suppression of Bougainville rebels opposed to the company’s Panguna copper mine.
An affidavit written by Sir Michael when he was Opposition Leader in 2001 – and never made public – alleges that Rio played an active role in military operations that ultimately led to a civil war and blockade of the island in which 15,000 people died between 1989 and 1997.
”Because of Rio Tinto’s financial influence in PNG, the company controlled the government,” Mr Somare’s affidavit states.
”The government of PNG followed Rio Tinto’s instructions and carried out its requests … BCL was directly involved in the military operations on Bougainville, and it played an active role. BCL supplied helicopters, which were used as gunships, the pilots, troop transportation, fuel and troop barracks.”
The Somare affidavit was lodged as part of an ongoing class action in the United States by the islanders against Rio Tinto.
The case has been bogged down in legal argument for 10 years, preventing much of the evidence, including the Somare affidavit, from being made public. In his signed statement, Sir Michael claims that without Rio Tinto, there would never have been a war.
”It is my opinion that absent Rio Tinto’s mining activity on Bougainville or its insistence that the Panguna mine be re-opened, the government would not have engaged in hostilities or taken military action on the island.” The affidavit will complicate Rio Tinto’s current attempts to reopen the mine, which is being supported by Sir Michael’s government.
Sir Michael was unaware that SBS’s Dateline program had obtained his signed statement from sealed US court material until his office was contacted this week. Sir Michael is recovering from double heart surgery in Singapore and his office was unable to say if he still stood by his comments.
The ailing leader’s statement reinforces claims from the islander litigants and former rebels that Rio Tinto had a hand in the military’s efforts.
Sam Kauona, a former fighter, said: ”It didn’t surprise me, all the time we knew.
”We knew that BCL was financing this war on Bougainville because when we were fighting … all the BCL vehicles were being used by the security forces.”
Panguna landowner, former rebel and local chief Philip Miriori said Sir Michael’s statement backs up his long-standing claims about Rio’s complicity with the PNG military.
BCL chief executive Peter Taylor was aware of the affidavit, but said he was surprised Sir Michael would ”make these accusations knowing they’re completely unfounded”.
Brian Thomson’s report on the war in Bougainville screens on Dateline on SBS1 at 8.30 tonight.
By JACOB POK
THERE is major corruption within the Department of National Planning and Monitoring where millions of kina of public funds have been misused, its secretary Joseph Lelang said.
In a press conference yesterday, Lelang said a new “mafia ring” involving senior officers of the department and including “one or two ministers and several ministerial staff were involved in the theft.
He claimed several funds were released for unknown purposes. He said since his suspension in February on allegations of misconduct, the department released several funds. He said when the court ordered his reinstatement early this month, he was advised that out of a total direct government funding of K2.1 billion in the development budget, K1.9 billion had been released within three months, from March to May. He said about K735 million was put into a trust account under the Finance Department while K1.2 billion was released by the department to projects and programmes of government.
“I am unable to see how the K735 million of development monies held by the Finance Department is being spent or dished out but I was only able to obtain from records the government programmes and projects the department funded,” Lelang claimed.
He said he had sent a special report to Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal exposing all the corruption that had been happening in the department during the period of his suspension. He said he indicated in the report that there was an unequal distribution of the country’s resources between March and May, “where certain electorates continued to receive large funding at the expense of the rest of the country”.
He said he recommended in the report a need for a commission of inquiry into the 2011 development budget to inquire how public funds in millions of kina had been dished out within three months. He said he had told police to carry out investigations into the whereabouts of the funds and prosecute those involved. He said although he was suspended from office, the outcome of the independent investigation into his conduct did not find any evidence of misconduct.
Lelang said before his appointment as the department’s secretary, “the department was in a bad state”. He said the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report into the National Planning and Monitoring Department tabled in parliament in April 2008, showed gross abuse of public monies and mismanagement of development budgets by senior management of the department at that time. Lelang said he had managed to overhaul the department, restructured it and implemented many changes in the running of the office when he took over as secretary in 2008.
This week’s decision in the National Court, that logging company Concord Pacific pay a record K226 million in damages for environmental destruction caused by illegal logging, puts the spotlight on the role of Papua New Guinea’s Governor General in facilitating and supporting illegal logging and the misery it causes to the lives of ordinary people
The Governor General, Michael Ogio, was heavily involved as part of a political web that facilitated and supported the illegal logging operations of Concord Pacific when he was Forest Minister.
As Forest Minister, Ogio not only approved the unlawful issuing of an extension to the Kiunga-Aiambak Timber Authority held by Concord Pacific, against the advice of five different government departments. Ogio also gave Concord Pacific three separate unlawful tax exemptions.
In handing down the courts decision on damages on Tuesday, Justice Cathy Davani was very critical of the destruction caused by the logging company. She said the destruction had completely destroyed the lives of local people, especially children and women, and the damage done was immeasurable. These impacts were the direct consequences of the unlawful actions of the Governor General and a whole line of other politicians and senior public servants.
In December 2000, Ogio granted an illegal Timber Authority for Stage 3 of the Aiambak Kiunga project. This was illegal as the Minister had no power to grant a Timber Authority and no proper application or allocation procedures had been followed. This was later pointed out to the Minister in a letter from the National Forest Baord – a letter which he ignored.
Six months earlier In May 2000 Ogio, together with the Ministers for Transport, Works and Agriculture, had made a submission to the National Executive Council for the extension of the Kiunga Aiambak Timber Authority. The submission ignored the view of the Forest Authority that the existing Timber Authority was totally illegal. The proposed extension to the Timber Authority was also totally contrary to the provisions of the Forestry Amendment Act 2000 and had been heavily criticised by a number of Government Departments.
Two of the biggest were:
- Three Ministerial Directives to the National Forest Board to ignore proper procedures and unlawfully award the Josephstaal logging concession in Madang Province; and
- Approval for an unlawful 10-year extension of the Timber Permit for the huge Wawoi Guavi concession, held by logging giant Rimbunan Hijau. In granting the approval, Ogio went against the advice of the Forest Authority and acted in defiance of the National Forest Board
The majority of local people in the Torokina district of Bougainville say they oppose plans by Lae Biscuits to establish oil palm plantations on their land.
Lae Biscuits is being supported by members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government and some vocal local leaders, but local people say there is almost no support on the ground.
Seventeen people from Torokina were recently flown to Lae by Henry Chow, owner of Lae Biscuits, for an ‘exposure tour’ to see oil palm being grown in the Ramu valley. But they returned home uncvonvinced that oil palm is a good option for them.
The proposed developer of the project is a company called Hakau Holdings which is a subsidiary of Lae Biscuits.
Local pople in Torokina accuse Chow of politicising the oil palm proposal and having undue influence over some politicains and leaders which they say riases suspicions of corruption.
Local people say their opposition the proposed project is based in part on:
- past negative experience with BCL discharging its waste into the Jaba River which flows through their area,
- the very small area of fertile land available which oil palm will occupy and there will none left for the future generation,
- Torokina has a total population of 3,000 and they are concern that their will be influx of people from the outside if this project goes ahead.
The University does not allow pregnant female students to continue their studies beyond their current semester and the women are not allowed to re-enrol for two years after giving birth.
Faced with such a prolonged delay to their studies and the loss of fees many pregnant students are being forced to seek illegal and often very dangerous back-street abortions in order to stay at the university.
The DWU FALSELY claims its policy is a reflection of Papua New Guinea’s labour laws which the University says mandates a period of maternity leave that is greater than the time away from studies allowed in the University regulations.
Labor lawyers and human rights activists both agree the University’s claims are complete nonsense.
The University also claims its imposition of a two-year wait before a mother can return to her studies after birth is supported by nursing experts and the Department of Health – more utter nonsense according to health professionals.
The University’s policy on pregnant female students is completely discriminatory and a denial of basic human rights.
The University does not impose any sanction on male students who are the fathers of the children.