Home > Corruption, Human rights, Land, Logging, Papua New Guinea > SABL – An outstanding issue for PM O’Neill

SABL – An outstanding issue for PM O’Neill

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

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.

Ends//

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  1. chatnawat hongsri
    January 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Please reply to me.Many Thank

    • valentine
      January 31, 2014 at 10:53 am

      this deals are really filty and dirty the Asians are buying us cheaply through our senior and mandated leaders…

      Please can someone investigate the Sogeram TRP Issue….its a red hot issue…between RH and WOODBANK….

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