PNG Treasurer and SABL defender has long history of support for illegal logging
A leaked letter has exposed how Treasury Minister Patrick Pruaitch has been actively supporting the SABL land grab and illegal logging in PNG and undermining attempts to implement the recommendations of the SABL Commission of Inquiry.
Pruaitch’s actions come as no surprise to observers of the logging industry in PNG. The Minister for Treasury and Member for Aitape-Lumi has a long history of staunchly defending the interests of foreign logging companies and supporting their illegal activities, as we documented in March this year
This is how commentator Keith Jackson described Pruaitch’s association with the logging industry on his PNG Attitude blog just after the last election:
After being appointed Forest Minister in August 2002, it was alleged Pruaitch enjoyed the generous patronage of the giant Malaysian company Rimbunan Hijau. For his part, Pruaitch defended the company at every turn, even taking out press advertisements to deny claims it had been logging without legal permits and claiming it to be “one of the most committed logging companies in PNG”.
The SABL Commission of Inquiry had this to say about Rimbunan Hijau:
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.
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.
In 2013 Pruaitch was exposed trying to block the SABL Commission of Inquiry from publishing its report which exposed the fraud and mismanagement involved in the SABL land grab
Pruaitch has also been referred to the public prosecutor for corruption and in May 2011 convicted criminal William Nanua Kapris named Patrick Pruaitch (along with Minister Tony Aimo and Deputy Speaker Francis Marus) as accessories to his robberies [thus repeating claims first made in 2010].
With people like Patrick Pruaitch in senior positions in government will we ever see effective action to undo the SABL land grab and stop the illegal logging?