Tate and the FIA lied about Rimbunan Hijau involvement in SABL land grab
The Forest Industry Association, the body which represents the logging industry in Papua New Guinea, has been caught lying about its members involvement in the unlawful SABL land grab and illegal logging.
The largest logging company operating in PNG is Malaysian owned Rimbunan Hijau. RH and ten of its subsidiary companies are listed by the FIA as members, making them by far the largest block represented by the association.
In an interview on ABC radio in February 2012, Bob Tate, Executive Officer for the FIA said only one of its members was involved in an SABL and that lease involved old plantation land.
However, Rimbunan Hijau is operating in three controversial SABLs in East New Britain where it is clear felling large tracts of virgin rainforest. Rimbunan Hijau has been exporting around 180,000 cubic metres of raw logs from each year, according to data collected by SGS on behalf of the PNG Forest Authority.
The three SABLs make up the Sigite Mukus Integrated Rural Development Project and cover portions 198C, 197C and 196C (Pomata Investment Limited, Ralopal Investment Limited, Nakiura Limited)
Landowners in these SABL areas have petitioned the Prime Minister and National Forest Board to stop the logging which they say they never consented to and have called for the canceling of the SABLs which they say are fraudulent.
The landowners have also repeatedly complained about police violence and human rights abuses by mobile police squads employed by Rimbunan Hijau to supress any landowner dissent – complaints which have been endorsed in a multi-agency investigation report.
All this was denied by Tate and the FIA in the 2012 interview. Tate even went so far as to say the FIA agreed with NGOs about their concerns SABLs were being used as a backdoor entry for illegal and unsustainable logging…
ABC: The island of New Guinea is home to the world’s third largest intact tropical rainforest. But in the past 10 years, 11 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s land mass has been leased out for 99 years under controversial Special Agricultural and Business leases – many of which were concluded without the knowledge or permission of landowners. In 2011, log exports from these leases reached 650,000 cubic metres.
ABC: Non-government Organisations say Special Agricultural and Business leases are being used as a quick and dirty back door method for getting access to forests and that many of the companies with these leases do not intend to set up agricultural businesses as they are supposed to.
TATE: It may surprise some of your listeners, but again the NGO movement and ourselves are, if you like, singing the same song. We’ve been long concerned about the potential for abuse and what we believe has turned into, in many instances, real abuse of the system.
ABC: Are members of the Forest industry Association involved in logging SABLs?
TATE: Only one of our members has an SABL and that covers what used to be old plantations developed even before the second world war.
This is what the Commission of Inquiry into the SABLs said about Rimbunan Hijau in its reports released last year:
‘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’.