Many would not have seen it among the ceremony and pomp that has accompanied Prime Minister O’Neill’s historic visit to Bougainville – it was the big ‘for sale’ sign O’Neill and Momis have just dangled around the island.
This is partly because O’Neill’s visit has been portrayed by a pliable media contingent as a historic act of reconciliation between PNG and Bougainville; the breaking of arrows. ‘Why here’, ‘why now’, are not words any one dares utter. But utter they should.
For the past three years the ABG has made its development strategy clear – the sell-off of Bougainville’s marine, timber and mineral resources to foreign investors. As a result President Momis has been busy in the Philippines and China enjoying five star treatment, while Asian investors eye Bougainville’s riches, along with the old-hand Rio Tinto.
But there is one problem niggling at the President, ‘stability’. If foreign investors are to be wooed, they need to be able to convince creditors that they are not about to park their funds in a black hole. As BCL’s Chairman recently told the Murdoch press in Australia:
When I need to raise the money for this mine, by going to banks and investors, wanting to raise billions of dollars, they’re going to say: “Tell me about Bougainville.” If Bougainville is the world’s newest nation, with no track record of managing projects, as opposed to PNG which has a long track record, it’s going to be easier to raise the money if Bougainville doesn’t go down the independence route. I wouldn’t even go to the market at this stage, because I can’t tell the market what they’re investing in.
Enter Prime Minister O’Neill. With concerns being increasingly raised about Bougainville’s stability as it approaches its independence referendum, O’Neill and Momis have entered a pact of convenience.
It needs to be said O’Neill is not hell bent on keeping Bougainville – he will respect the referendum decision – however, the PM certainly does not want an independent or autonomous Bougainville being a financial albatross around PNG’s neck for years to come.
On the other hand, Momis has had something of an economic conversion since becoming President, and believes only a fire sale of Bougainville’s natural resources to foreign investors will save his land from ruin.
Momis and O’Neill might not like each other (!!), but they know they need each other. If PNG is to be rid of the financial albatross, O’Neill believes he must assure the international community that whatever the outcome of the referendum, PNG will act as a mature friend of Bougainville. On the other hand, Momis has bought the AusAid mantra and thinks that only the wide-scale sell off of Bougainville’s resources will establish an economic future for his island, so Momis needs O’Neill to act as a mature guarantor foreign investors can believe in.
These are not necessarily well thought out or well supported strategies, indeed they may be the quickest route to wrack and ruin; but it explains the recent odd behaviour of Momis and O’Neill, who are what the kids call these days, ‘frenemies’.
By Pasifika Media Wardrobes
The Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) concept was found as a failed and illegal land scheme for Papua New Guineans and the many local landowners that underwent the concept of land leases.
Since the tabling of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the SABL in October 2013, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill promised that the reports were to be made public and action would be taken immediately.
Based on the findings and recommendations of the reports, Peter O’Neill himself labelled the SABL scheme as “a total failure to landowners” that involved a lot of illegalities, and he told parliament that his government will act on it.
But to date, that promise is not forthcoming, while many of the cases highlighted in the inquiry reports continue to carry on their illegal operations while landowners remain voiceless.
“A ministerial taskforce committee will be appointed to look into the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and will report to parliament,” said O’Neill when presenting the reports before parliament in October 2013.
But the status of the ministerial committee is unknown, and civil society organizations are still questioning the task of the committee.
On the other hand, Alois Jerewai (the commissioner who failed to hand in his report to parliament) gave his reasons for failing to meet the deadline set by the Prime Minister, adding that the COI was under-funded and it is reflected in the serious qualification to the COI report once allowed to be published.
“The Commission of Inquiry into the SABL received only K7 million out of the K15 million that the Prime Minister said it spent on this inquiry…I want to know where the other balance of K8 million was spent. It certainly was not spent on this COI,” said Jerewai.
The respective inquiry reports compiled by Chief Commissioner, John Numapo, and Commissioner, Nicholas Mirou, found that there was widespread abuse, fraud, lack of coordination between government agencies, failure and incompetence of government officials to ensure compliance, accountability and transparency within the SABL process.
The reports highlighted that throughout the course of the inquiry, serious allegations were levelled against officials and senior government bureaucrats involved in the management of SABL, with bribes and inducements being offered by project developers and representatives of landowner companies to procure SABL titles.
The inquiry also received evidence of undue political pressures being put on government officials by senior Ministers and politicians to fast-track SABL applications and issue titles. Incidences of political interference were numerous and were reported in respective individual SABL reports.
The reports overall findings pointed out that there was corruption and mismanagement, and lack of coordination by key agencies including departments of Lands and Physical Planning, Environment and Conservation, Agriculture and Livestock, Provincial Affairs and Local Level Government, Investment Promotion Authority, PNG Forest Authority, and the Forest Clearance Authority.The reports stated that the entire land management system in PNG is in a mess and recommended that the SABL process should be done away with or a workable policy be formulated on SABL that benefits local landowners.
It stands a sad fact that the Commission of Inquiry reports have not been made public, not even to those concerned, the landowners.
Executive Director of PNG Institute of National Affairs, Paul Barker says he hopes SABL doesn’t become another issue that the Government sweeps under the carpet.
“There was a public outcry when the Government failed to hand in reports of the commission of inquiry, and after much pressure they were presented to parliament. And let’s hope there is action on the findings and recommendations set by the inquiry,” said Barker.
Executive Director of Partners with Melanesians, Ken Mondiai added that the Government must cancel all SABLs and hand over land titles to landowners.
“The inquiry has already found that most operations of SABL were illegal and the PM himself declared it as a miserable failure,” said Mondiai.
Tony Power, a local from East Sepik say 38 of the 42 leases mentioned in the report were fraudulently obtained by foreign companies “and they must be cancelled and returned back to the rightful landowners.”
“Local landowners have waited for far too long and it is almost over 10 years…their land and resources must be returned to them,” said Power.
Strong leaders emerge from mass movements, not vice versa. In times of corruption, virulent white-collar criminality, rising costs of living, expanding inequality, land grabs, resource manipulation, and the loss of sovereignty to shady foreigners of many colours and creeds, many citizens dream of a saviour who will cleanse PNG of the wrong-doers and bring about justice. This saviour exists – not in the form of any one man or woman, but in all men and women of PNG united. Only a mass movement of epic proportions can counteract a swindle of epic proportions.
At the moment there are no mass movements in PNG capable of securing the national interest. For instance, in the rural areas there is no peasant movement, uniting all clans, which seeks to conquer for the rural masses political power; to conquer political power in order to champion the interests of those who have access to land and labour, but who need vital support in terms of transport, technology, communications and marketing, if they are to get something remotely resembling a fair market price for their hard work. While in the cities, the labour-unions are small, poorly resourced, often mismanaged, and have yet to amplify the collective voice of working people either at an industrial level or a political level.
Without such mass movements, we still have leaders yes, but weak leaders that are greedy, self-interested and easily corruptible (with honourable exceptions). They are weak, greedy and corrupt because they are not held accountable by a mass of people unified through strong civil society organisations who can ensure that promises of sweeping reform and changes are kept. Instead, they are ‘accountable’ to a fragmented and atomised electorate, who are often disorganised and have no mechanisms or criteria with which to keep leaders in check. So when it comes to election time, our leaders arrive with beer, shirts and big promises. That votes are won through such superficial transactions is not an indictment on the people of PNG, it is a reflection of our demoralisation, disorganisation and disempowerment.
From there the weak leaders, unconnected to a mass movement, go to Waigani, where they are courted by foreign companies some of whom wish to command PNG’s natural resources, others are more brazen crooks just looking for a chunk of public revenues through petty frauds. Weak leaders listen to foreign companies and foreign advisers, because they have no mass movement keeping them to account, ensuring they are championing the interests of PNG people, not foreigners. Weak leaders fill their own pockets, because there is no consequence if they do.
The media is not going to be our saviour – lets face it, The National is owned by Rimbunan Hijau a company whose criminality is legendary, as the latest SABL Commission of Inquiry attests. Equally, the Post-Courier is owned by none other than the News Corporation, whose crooked deals are currently the subject of criminal prosecutions in the UK. News organisations run by the very types of venal companies coming to suck our fertile soils of every last ounce of wealth, are hardly going to act as spotlights.
For too long the people of this great nation have blamed their leaders for being weak. The truth is we are the ones who have made them weak. We have made them weak because we are fragmented and divided – there is no muscle on the bones of the nation! We have made them weak because there is no serious mass-resistance to those who steal our resources, and wreak havoc in the towns and rural areas.
It is time to unite, and fight, only then will strong leaders emerge who govern in the national interest rather than the interest of a rich and powerful minority who on the whole call foreign lands home.
Whistle blower…. ARE YOU SERIOUS???
Firstly, it seems that this is a personal attack on Prof. Siba by some one (whom I believe was an ex-staff member). Probably did some thing stupid and got sacked and is now trying to spoil the name of Prof. Siba and his family. So, let me explain some things to you.
His wife, is not the site administrator. She is actually a logistics officer at Karkar for the PiH project. His son who is in Karkar has been suspended because of the incident and police reports were made and actioned and he has been suspended without pay by the PNGIMR disciplinary committee and replaced the broken window. The incident with the knife had nothing to do with his suspension as it was an outside matter and had been dealt with.
The terminated three very experienced staff (as you say) with over 20 years of experience were suspended 2, 3 or 4 years ago for a SERIOUS alcohol related matter. They went to the IMR office in Madang under heavy influence of alcohol and physically and verbally assaulted a very senior long serving IMR staff member who has been in IMR for over 30 years.
His other son whom you say is in USA actually has a bachelors degree in education from UOG and also a Post Graduate diploma in Science (Molecular Biology) at UPNG (FYI). His father didn’t send him to USA on a scholarship. His son applied for and was successfully awarded a prestigious and globally competetive USA scholarship funded by NIH in USA to do a masters. This son is also a qualified and gifted scientist who has authored and co-authered international scientific papers.
The adopted son you are talking about is actually not adopted. Prof Siba assisted him in his education since primary school and as a way of honoring this, he uses Prof. Sibas sur name. he has done well and has a Degree (FYI) in agriculture science. He was interviewed and got employed and has proven to be an outstanding employee and is doing very well catching mosquitos and doing lab work.
I highly doubt that every one at IMR is related to Prof. Siba. All employees who work at IMR had to go through a screening interview regardless of who they are.
I have been to the karkar PiH/LNG site but I couldn’t find a mansion. All I saw was a small green three bedroom high post house where his wife uses the small living room space as a temporary make shift office space for her logistics work. That house was built by a private contractor and his wifes reletives at karkar. The private contractor usually does small contracts around Madang and is some times contracted by IMR madang.
If you go to IMR today, you would still see all the senior staff no one was terminated. Infact, the senior staff whom you say are terminated are still there, happy as ever and proud of what Prof. Siba has done for the institute. They will be at the front car park at 10am drinking coffee and talking. I don’t know about the so called budget deficit but IMR probably has one of the best transparent administrations in the country who manage the IMR budget. Personally, I think and know that you…WHISTLE BLOWER… are an ex-staff member of IMR who have been working for some time especially in Madang and recently, because of your unproductiveness to the institute got sacked and now trying to find some form of way to personally attack Prof. Siba and his family.
From what you are writing, it is clear that you don’t know what your talking about, it seems that you know his family but not that well. Your probably angry that you just lost your job and all messed up and personally attacking this great man and his family. For those of us who know Prof. Siba both PROFESSIONALLY and personally, we will stand by him. Your just a little kid who doesn’t know anything and talking rubbish. And we see this as a PERSONAL ATTACK of Prof Siba. I think I know who you are, or where or from WHOM your getting your info. (FYI)
Can any journalist out there and relevant authorities please investigate Professor Peter Siba – Director of Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR)? He is practicing widespread nepotism as well as threatening, intimidating, terminating and demoting staff who want to speak up against him.
He has now appointed his wife (a data entry clerk with no qualifications) as the site administrator for the LNG research control site at Karkar island (her own place). One of his sons who is in their village at Karkar is also on the PNGIMR payroll but nobody knows what he does.
Recently, his son was drunk and broke the wind screen and other parts of a PNGIMR vehicle but his father sent him home on a few weeks suspension on full pay while he terminated 3 very experienced staff with over 20 years of experience for a minor alcohol related matter. This particular son of Peter Siba returned to work after his suspension with a knife and nearly killed a PNGIMR staff in front of everyone in an IMR bus over a minor argument. Nothing was done about it.
He also has another son who has a diploma in science education obtained from the university of Goroka whom he has sent to USA on full scholarship and even on a business class flight to do a masters degree even though there are so many other fully qualified and academically gifted scientists currently working for the PNGIMR.
He has also employed his adopted son, a young man named after him, with a completely awkward background in Agriculture with low grades, to work in one of the highly skilled PNGIMR labs, in a highly skilled area of science (immunology). There are so many other people he has employed without an interview now working at PNGIMR. Almost all of them are his relatives. He is currently using IMR carpenters who are supposed to be working for the institute, to build his mansion at Karkar Island. Of course, PNGIMR pays them.
Lately he terminated the contract of all his senior staff because they wanted to talk to him about a budget deficit that only him knew where the money has gone to. Millions of kina.
Somebody, please investigate him immediately. He is driving PNG’s only world-class medical research institute into the drain and thinks he can get away with it.
Relevant authorities, please help us save PNGIMR.
You wont be reading this in The National (The Daily Log), here is one of the key findings of the COI into SABL:
‘The most shocking instance abuse we have discovered is in relation to the practice of extracting logs under the pretext of genuine SABL activities. We find it to be a current and ongoing practice. We are convinced that some SABL project proponents are not genuine developers of agro-forestry projects. They appear not to be here for the long haul but only for as long as it takes to log out their subleases. They appear to use fancy agriculture development plans and project development agreements as red herring to obtain permits to log out huge tracts of forest lands. They mislead and deceive landowners with the assistance of corrupt government officials. They literally pay off assertive clan leaders and then use divide and rule tactics to obtain subleases. Genuinely motivated landowners desperate for development and basic services are easy prey for these people. Some landowners are deceived by promises of instant wealth. Still other landowners, those who are particularly incapable of working their SABLs themselves, are forced to opt for unacceptable and risky lease arrangements. With corrupt government officials from implementing agencies riding shotgun for them, opportunistic loggers masquerading as agro-forestry developers are prowling our countryside, scoping opportunities to take advantage of gullible landowners and desperate for cash clan leaders’.
‘A preponderance of the evidence before us indicate that logging companies are the biggest beneficiaries of the SABL scheme. Most sublease holders are using sublease agreements primarily to extract logs. Most of them do not even make the attempt to clear fell harvested areas to start work on the agriculture component. They take full advantage by exploiting the flawed lease-leaseback process and capitalize on the poorly regulated and badly administered oversight apparatus. Our investigations reveal that over 50% of the so-called developers’ currently holding subleases on SABLs are connected in one way or another to Rimbunan Hijau (RH) Limited, which by far is the biggest logging operator in PNG’.
The complete SABL Commission of Inquiry reports from Commissioners John Numapo and Nicholas Mirou can be downloaded here:
Numapo SABL Final Report (4MB)
Mirou SABL Final Report (20MB)
You can also read our shorter case studies which highlight some of the individual SABLs:
- SABL Case Study 11: The Kassman family and their fraudulent LNG land deals
- SABL Case Study No.10: Neville Harsley and the Trans Papuan Highway fraud
- SABL Case Study No.9: Continental Venture and the Middle Ramu
- SABL Case Study No.8: Acting Lands Secretary Romilly Kila-Pat
- SABL Case Study No.7: Rimbunan Hjau, Kila Pat and the unlawful Port Moresby wharf
- SABL Case Study No.6: Turubu and Sepik Oil Palm Plantations
- SABL Case Study No.5: Belden Namah and Bewani Palm Oil Limited
- SABL Case Study 4: Department of Lands corrupt and incompetent
- SABL Case Study No.3: Tutuman and the Danfu Extension
- SABL Case Study No.2: Victory Plantations and Edward Studdy
- SABL Case Study No.1: Puka Temu and the Changhae Tapioka cassava project