International SOS teams up with leading human rights violator and environmental destroyer in Papua New Guinea
The world’s leading medical and travel security assistance company, International SOS, has teamed up with Rimbunan Hijau subsidiary Tropicair to provide evacuation services in Papua New Guinea [see announcement below].
The new alliance seems a strange one. Rimbunan Hijau’s appalling human rights record and history of illegal logging seems to directly contradict International SOS’s claimed commitment to saving and protecting lives.
Just last year Rimbuan Hijau was exposed in a multi-agency report as employing police officers to brutalize local communities in logging areas.
The 2013 Commission of Inquiry into Special Agriculture Business Leases revealed Rimbunan Hijau’s role at the centre of a huge corrupt and illegal land grab:
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… 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 inquiry concluded more than 90% of the leases investigated were unlawful and should be revoked. But RH has not relinquished any of its stolen ground.
Rimbunan Hijau has a long history of abuse in PNG.
A 2004 report, The Untouchables – Rimbunan Hijau’s world of forest crime and political patronage, exposed RH as one of the world’s largest forest destroyers; its operations characterised by documented illegalities and environmental destruction and protected by an extensive and well-established network of political patronage and media control.
The SBS television company in Australia has also exposed Rimbunan Hijau’s human rights abuses. This is the video testimony of one police officer who was employed by RH:
“We handled those suspects good and proper. We bashed them up, we hit them with huge irons and when we mobilised in there we made sure that these people who complain against rights of their benefit were manhandled, you know. I became violent because of their [Rimbunan Hijau’s] actions, because of their instructions”.
For a more complete dossier of Rimbunan Hijau human rights abuses check out this review.
Rimbunan Hijau is the largest logging company operating in PNG where at least 70% of logging operations are illegal – as revealed in a 2014 report from the prestigious Chatham House group in London. That is a figure confirmed by the World Bank.
Bizarrly, International SOS claims “providing a human touch and protecting people is our number one priority”
One wonders how International SOS’s 11,000 employees, including 5,600 medical professionals, will feel knowing they are working with a company that likes to use the police to terrorize local communities and locks people in shipping containers in the tropical heat for trying to defend their customary land rights.
And how will International SOS’s clients which include multinational companies, governments and NGOs across the globe, react to this new partnership?
Tropicair is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rimbuan Hijau, with 90% of its shares being held by Rimbunan Hijau’s largest logging company in PNG, Wawoi Guavi Timber Co. Tropicair’s directors are all Rimbunan Hijau employees, as are its two company secretaries.
Ironically, Wawoi Guavi’s own logging operation has been revealed as illegal by the World Bank and has been at the centre of many of Rimbunan Hijau’s worst human rights abuses in PNG.
The Wawoi Guavi Timber company has also twice tried to unlawfully obtain logging rights to the huge 850,000 Kamula Doso logging concession. Its first attempt was exposed as illegal by the Ombudsman Commission in 2002, its second in 2006 was ruled illegal by the courts.
International SOS says it prides itself on helping its clients to assess risk – but what about the reputational risk to International SOS, its clients and its staff from its alliance with Rimbunan Hijau?
ALLIANCE WITH TROPICAIR IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
International SOS and Tropicair have formed an alliance, creating the largest skilled and responsive medical evacuation service in Papua New Guinea. The expanded capabilities of the providers deliver faster access to quality medical evacuation services and, consequently, improved health outcomes for people across the country.
The partnership increases both the capability and capacity of aero-medical evacuation services in and around Papua New Guinea, combining International SOS’ 20 years of international standard aero-medical expertise in Papua New Guinea with Tropicair’s local fleet of nine aircraft, including a new Twin Otter that can access airfields as short as 650m.
A signing ceremony was held in Port Moresby on Wednesday and was attended by Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon. Andrew Robb.
International SOS Regional Managing Director, Michael Gardner said:
“I am delighted to announce the strengthening and formalisation of the partnership between International SOS and Tropicair in Papua New Guinea.
Together our extensive experience will ensure that people in Papua New Guinea and the surrounding region have access to the most rapid and professional air ambulance and medical assistance services available.
Our clients operating in Papua New Guinea can be confident they are fulfilling duty of care to their employees with our improved capability to medically evacuate people from the most remote areas of the country, and transfer them to either Port Moresby, Australia or further afield depending on the required treatment
We chose to partner with Tropicair because of its excellent reputation and capabilities. Tropicair shares our values of improving the health and safety of people in Papua New Guinea and surrounding areas, and our commitment to providing the highest standard of services.”
The partnership with Tropicair will further complement International SOS’ substantial resources in Port Moresby, which include two medical clinics, training services, medical response and evacuation teams.
International SOS have more than 350 medical and operational staff on the ground in Papua New Guinea, 86 percent of which are Papua New Guinea nationals.
International SOS has operated in Papua New Guinea for 20 years, providing medical services for Australian and International corporations, NGOs, Governments and Education institutions. These services include world class primary and emergency medical care, medical evacuation, public health and community health programs, as well as malaria control, occupational medicine and first aid training.
Outside of the Papua New Guinea government we are the largest employer of Papua New Guinea medical professionals and have trained and developed over 500 national medical staff.
About International SOS
International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company. We care for clients across the globe, from more than 850 locations in 92 countries.
Our expertise is unique: More than 11,000 employees are led by 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists. Teams work night and day to protect our members.
We pioneer a range of preventive programmes strengthened by our in-country expertise. We deliver unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident or civil unrest.
We are passionate about helping clients put Duty of Care into practice. With us, multinational corporate clients, governments and NGOs can mitigate risks for their people working remotely or overseas.