Home > Corruption, Human rights, Land, Logging, Papua New Guinea > Minister overrules SABL CoI findings on New Hanover leases

Minister overrules SABL CoI findings on New Hanover leases

December 3, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments


In February this year, current Treasury Minister and former Minister for Forests, Patrick Pruaitch, gave his seal of approval to three controversial logging operations and SABL leases on New Hanover island that the SABL Commission of Inquiry found to be fraudulent and unlawful.

A TUTAMAN LEASE smallIn a letter dated 24 February [450Kb] Pruaitch claimed the leases and Forest Clearance Authorities were ‘all in order’ and said they had the ‘fullest support’ of his Ministry. This is in direct contradiction of the Commission’s detailed findings of fraud, intimidation and a complete failure to follow proper process in issuing the SABLs and FCAs to Malaysian owned logging company, Tutuman.

Two months after the letter was written, Pruaitch was elevated by the Prime Minister to his new position as Treasury Minister.

The leaked letter graphically illustrates why the Prime Minister’s promises of action to revoke the SABLs and an NEC decision endorsing the Commission of Inquiry recommendations have not been implemented – too many Ministers and other politicians are involved in the unlawful leases and the corruption that lies behind the SABL land grab and widespread illegal logging.

When Pruaitch wrote the letter he was the head of the Ministerial Committee charged by the government with reviewing the SABL Commission of Inquiry report and says, as Minister for Forests, he had directed a specific review of each SABL project.

“I am pleased to advice [sic] that FCA’s portion 887 C Central New Hanover, Portion 886 C Umbukul and Portion 885 C Tabut were all in order and wish to congratulate the Leaders, the Landowner and the Developer, Tutuman Development Limited… these projects will have the fullest of support from my Ministry and the National Forest Authority”

This statement by the Minister is totally at odds with the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, which recommended the three New Hanover SABLs, which cover 93,000 hectares, 75% of the whole island, be revoked and a criminal investigation be undertaken of Tutuman for ‘major irregularities’.

The Commission of Inquiry visited Hanover island, interviewed numerous witnesses and reviewed the files from three government departments. It found:

  • The whole land investigation process was flawed and corrupted and consent was not properly obtained
  • The majority of people were totally unaware of the SABL process until after the leases had been issued
  • Tutuman misled the PNG Forest Authority when applying for its FCAs
  • There was harassment of landowners by Tutuman and the use of arms and force by police Mobile Squads including at least one shooting and hospitalization on the orders of the company
  • Tutuman purported to sell the land under the SABLs to a third party for US$1.6 million – a deal that should be the subject of a criminal investigation as it was fraudulent and dishonest
  • Tutuman does not have the capacity and expertise to undertake a high-impact agro-forestry project
  • Tutuman has failed to meet its implementation schedule for agriculture planting as part of its logging permit
  • The log pond is well below international standards
  • Massive destruction of mangroves, waterways, sago palms and destruction of coral reefs
  • Machinery dumped in waterways
  • Dredging of coral reefs to build logging roads

Pruaitch’s letter also totally contradicts the statement of the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, that the three leases were part of the 38 which together ‘reveal a shocking trend of mismanagement and corruption in all stages in the [SABL] process’.

The letter is also completely inconsistent with the decision of the National Executive Council, made in June, endorsing the Commission of Inquiry recommendations and directing the leases be revoked.

Rimbunan Hijau puppets cartoon, 2003

  1. Paul Barker
    December 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    It’s unjustified to portray a Sarawak (or other) logging company as a bear…! bears have a vested interst to safeguard the forest for their survival; whereas this beast has a vested interst to convert the natural resource to cash in bank and urban real estate!

  1. December 11, 2014 at 8:37 am

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