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Australian investors, business community and government ignore illegal logging, human rights abuses and corruption in their pursuit of profits

July 30, 2015 Leave a comment

Papua New Guinea’s worst human rights abuser and forest destroyer is being welcomed into the Australian business community with the listing of Kina Securities on the Australian Stock Exchange (see story below).

Kina Securities is wholly owned and controlled by Rimbunan Hijau, the Malaysian logging company with a long history of illegal logging, forest destruction and human rights abuse in PNG.

But none of this seems to worry the Australian business community or the Australian government who simply view Kina Securities as another good opportunity to make a profit out of PNG.

Australia’s actions in welcoming Kina Securities into the heart of its business environment exposes how paper thin are its supposed commitments to good governance, fighting corruption and corporate social responsibility.

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:

Rimbunan Hijau puppets cartoon, 2003With 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.

RH boycott sticker

Kina Securities to list on ASX and Port Moresby Exchange

david foster kina

Kina Securities will appoint former Suncorp chief executive David Foster to its board. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Rose Powell | Sydney Morning Herald

Kina Securities will become one of the first dual-listed Papua New Guinea-Australian companies when begins its float on Thursday morning.

The Port Moresby-based company manages a range of financial products and has a market-leading position in the micro-lending space and superannuation. It is the largest licensed funds manager in the country with more than $2.3 billion under management.

However, the stock sparked conversation among Australian investors due to its relatively cheap starting price as well as its dependence on the Papua New Guinean economy and currency.

The 30 year old company is seeking to raise $97 million from its IPO, with shares starting at $1. It has a 7.5 price-to-earnings ratio and its prospectus says it is aiming for an annualised 9.7 per cent dividend yield. It will have a market cap of $164 million.

Despite the risks, the IPO is oversubscribed. One investor, Bill Laister from Contango Asset Management, is optimistic about the company and its unusual exposure to the burgeoning middle class of Australia’s rapidly growing neighbouring economies.

“We participated in the float because we liked the company, its valuation and the share price. It’s very cheap, which compensates for increased risks, and the price and valuation will support the stock going forward,” Mr Laister said.

Australian investors can gain exposure to Papua New Guinea through two of Australia largest banks, Westpac and ANZ, but Mr Laister said Kina’s potential lay in its access to wider range of financial products and profits.

“This is the first listed opportunity to get exposure to banks involved at the micro-lending level, which we think has real potential,” Mr Laister said.

The majority of Kina Securities’s operating revenue comes from lending operations. Another quarter comes from foreign exchange and remittance activities and another quarter from deposits and funding.

A significant proportion of the funds raised from the IPO, just under $77 million, will go towards the acquisition of another Papua New Guinea financial company the Maybank Group and covering the costs of listing.

Another $22 million will go to the company’s largest shareholder, Hong Kong based investment company Fu Shan, in a partial sell-down.

Kina Securities, which is chaired by former Papua New Guinea prime minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu, will appoint former Suncorp chief executive David Foster to its board.

The float is underwritten by Morgan Corporate. It will list on both the ASX and the Port Moresby exchange on Thursday morning.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 763 days and counting…

July 27, 2015 1 comment

count

There has still been NO ACTION to cancel the huge SABL land grab, revoke the unlawful leases or stop the illegal logging in Papua New Guinea.

It is now 763 days, more than two years, since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be cancelled.

On June 24, 2013 O’Neill was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.

O’Neill has REPEATEDLY STATED the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

In September 2013 O’Neill told Parliament:

“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

In June 2014, announcing an NEC decision cancelling the leases, O’Neill said

“We are taking these steps to reclaim our customary land illegally lost to foreigners with the help of corrupt public servants and leaders”

“As a responsible government we want to ensure that all citizens have access to the lands of their ancestors. We will not allow our land to be lost to unscrupulous people out to con our people” 

Most recently O’Neill promised a new Task Force to look at the Commission of Inquiry recommendations, but, WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 763 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and he has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

Crucially he has failed to take any action to remove the corrupt public servants responsible for the land grab or distance himself from the politicians, including key Minister’s, complicit in the illegal deals and who are now blocking any positive action to revoke the leases and stop the logging.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

sabl cartoon

Criminals running logging firms in PNG

July 24, 2015 3 comments

gary juffa

ANDREW ALPHONSE in the Post Courier

LOGGING companies in this country are run and owned by ‘foreign criminals Mafias’ who have no regard for the laws of this sovereign nation.

Oro Governor Garry Juffa said this during a press conference early Wednesday morning. He later raised the same during Question Time in Parliament.

Governor Juffa said foreign logging companies are hell-bent to exploit our virgin forests without any compliance to the rules and laws governing timber operations in the country.

He said with their no-care attitude, they also use our very own police force against fellow citizens of this country. Governor Juffa said this after policemen engaged by a Malaysian logging company in Oro last week assaulted, arrested and locked up 17 local landowners who protested over illegal logging of their customary forest.

See also: Multi-agency report confirms police working for Rimbunan Hijau brutalize communities in SABL areas

Governor Juffa said the particular logging firm is illegal conducting logging at the Yamagapa area bordering Morobe and Oro which is not in their licensed area of logging as permitted by the National Forest Authority (NFA).

He said several times when landowners protested over these illegal logging in their area, the company uses police who employ heavy- handed tactics like beating and locking them up including dishing out inhuman treatments. Governor Juffa said policemen, state agencies in Oro like FNA officers and other line agencies are turning a blind -eye to the situation and as frustration is building up, the worst is imminent as landowners are already fed- up and willing to take law into their own lands.

See also: No more PNG police at logging sites

Governor Juffa demanded the NFA to immediately revoke the license of this company and have them deported adding that logging has being in operation in Oro for nearly 20 years but there is no economic return for the landowners and the provincial governments. He said all that is left is over 100 hectares of barren land not even reforested.

“I say even is enough and under my watch and leadership, I will stop all illegal logging in Oro,” Governor Juffa said.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Forest Minister Douglas Tomuresia said that he is aware of the logging incident and has advised his office to give the company a show- cause notice to explain.

He said officers have also being sent to investigate the allegations and a report of their findings would be made available to Governor Juffa soon.

Former Public Curator loses defamation case against The National

July 24, 2015 1 comment

In 2005 the Auditor General’s Office published a damning report on the Public Curator’s Office. It found that private estates were being serially mismanaged by the office, and as a result a range of predatory companies were stealing the inheritance of Papua New Guinea citizens.

The National published a story on the Auditor General’s findings, drawing specific attention to the incompetence of the then Public Curator Paul Wagun.

Key statements contested by Wagun in a recent defamation action include:

“Wagun should go”

“Curator incompetent, says Auditor-General’s Office”; and

“The Auditor-General’s Office (AOG) has urged the Justice Minister and Attorney-General to replace the Public Curator Paul Wagun with someone competent.”

The National Court has rejected Wagun’s claims and upheld the The National’s assessment and the report’s findings.

In his judgement, Justice Kandakasi observes:

“Since, Mr. Wagun was the Public Curator during the period of the Auditor’s investigations and its report; he was covered and included in the Report and its recommendations. If he was an exception to what the Report was critical of and that he had the necessary credentials, experience and more so the competence and a person of integrity to deliver on the powers and functions of the Public Curator’s Office, I have no doubt in my mind that the Report could have made that clear. The fact of the matter however is that, the Report made no such exception”.

Justice Kandakasi continues:

“If the Report was wrong as against Mr. Wagun, it was in Mr. Wagun’s interest to have that corrected before the Report could be made public or soon thereafter by taking the appropriate steps. Mr. Wagun adduced no evidence of having done that. It therefore remains a fact that, the Auditors Report has been accepted as accurate or correct by all concerned or affected or had an interest in the Report, in absence of any evidence seriously challenging the accuracy of the Report”.

Justice Kandakasi concludes The National were right to convey the Auditor General’s findings. He also observes The National fairly represents the Auditor General Office’s conclusions:

“The wording in paragraph 1.3 [of the audit report] was also capable of conveying the meaning or understanding or impression that the Public Curators, which included Mr. Wagun, were not appropriately qualified, experienced, competent and trustworthy enough to occupy the position. Hence, the position and or Office of the Public Curator needed a person, other those who have occupied the position up to time of the Report and one who has the necessary qualification, experience, competence and integrity, to properly carry out the powers and functions and duties and responsibilities of the Public Curator to restore confidence and integrity in the office”.

As a result, costs were awarded to The National and Wagun’s defamation claim was dismissed:

“Ultimately, I find that Mr. Wagun has failed to establish his claim in defamation against the Newspaper. Accordingly, I order a dismissal of his claim and that he pays the Defendants’ costs, which cost be taxed if not agreed within 14 days from today”.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 756 days and counting…

July 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

SABL_billboard

px-logo land grabbing

sabl cartoon

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 749 days and counting…

July 13, 2015 Leave a comment

count

There has still been NO ACTION to cancel the huge SABL land grab, revoke the unlawful leases or stop the illegal logging in Papua New Guinea.

It is now 749 days, more than two years, since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be cancelled.

On June 24, 2013 O’Neill was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

O’Neill has REPEATEDLY STATED the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

In September 2013 O’Neill told Parliament:

“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

In June 2014, announcing an NEC decision cancelling the leases, O’Neill said

“We are taking these steps to reclaim our customary land illegally lost to foreigners with the help of corrupt public servants and leaders”

“As a responsible government we want to ensure that all citizens have access to the lands of their ancestors. We will not allow our land to be lost to unscrupulous people out to con our people” 

Most recently O’Neill promised a new Task Force to look at the Commission of Inquiry recommendations, but, WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 749 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and he has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

Crucially he has failed to take any action to remove the corrupt public servants responsible for the land grab or distance himself from the politicians, including key Minister’s, complicit in the illegal deals and who are now blocking any positive action to revoke the leases and stop the logging.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

sabl cartoon

Pressure over PMIZ is making Minister Maru behave very oddly

July 6, 2015 6 comments

Maru flicks a mickey at the rest of the Pacific

Nineteen Years and Counting

Signs of panic can be found in the Department of Trace Commerce and Industry’s defense of the PMIZ of late. First, the bungled Summons against it public critics, which eventuated in Human Rights cases being lodged against the Department. Now rumours of rogue state behavior being expressed by Minister Richard Maru as he shops the project in Europe. Fellow-PNG Pacific Island countries have failed to sign up for the industrial zone despite terms favorable enough to be considered unfavorable to the host country. And now, despite professed loyalty to the PNA and the region, Maru is now shopping the boondoggle to European canneries, thereby jeopardizing everything the Partners of the Nauru Agreement stand for in the first place. Now we learn that Maru would risk all Pacific trade relationships to stand alone in the Interim EPA that exists between PNG and the European Union, rather than move toward a collective and comprehensive EPA alongside its regional neighbours.That’s a big F U to the other Partners of the Nauru Agreement and other Pacific Island States.If this is the extent to which Maru is willing to go, we only have to ask what he personally has at stake.Where is the money from the Exim Bank loan? How has it been acquitted? What accounting has been done on this US$95 million loan? Where is the investment to date?

We may be witnessing the desperate stratagems of a marked man. Will he barricade himself inside a Gold Coast mansion (purchased perhaps in a wife’s name, or that of a holding company with a perfunctory name)? Will he turn ‘State’s evidence’ against fellow PMIZ campaigners like Gabriel Kapris and Sylvester Pokajam, in an effort to save himself?

A couple of weeks ago, observers were prepared to find all manner of media slander against the 11 Defendants in the gagging order initiated by the Department of Trace, Commerce and Industry. But despite noises about sinister NGOs and anti-development conspirators, little has emerged to destabilize their credibility.

Now we enter a fugue state where Minister Maru is literally capable of saying anything to save his skin.

 Minister Maru enjoys the view from his personal plot in the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone

Minister Maru enjoys the view from his personal plot in the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone

Papua New Guinea has officially withdrawn from being a part of a Pacific island bloc to negotiate a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

Instead, PNG will continue trade discussions with the EU under the Interim EPA that it currently has.

Trade Minister, Richard Maru, made this announcement today saying this is done to safeguard PNG’s current trade arrangements with the EU and to further strengthen this relationship.

This announcement follows an intensive trip to Europe which started off in London with the UK-PNG Trade Investment Forum.

According to Maru, PNG is on a path to be on the EU’s good side and make PNG’s presence known in the European markets.

The strongest message PNG made was to announce in no uncertain terms that it is no longer interested in negotiating a comprehensive EPA.

“Papua New Guinea withdraws from all EPA negotiations, will not be part of any Pacific islands trade negotiating team, we will not attend any meetings as of today,” he said. Maru says this is to protect PNGs interest, most notably the K95 million PMIZ project in Madang. He said PMIZ is only “feasibly and viable ” because of PNG’s Interim EPA with the EU and PNG is not about to jeopardize that.

“In our talks we told the EU that, of the 10 canneries in Madang, 5 will be given to European companies.”

The discussions towards a more comprehensive EPA between the EU and 14 other Pacific Island countries have dragged on for 12 years.

In 2007, while the comprehensive EPA was still being negotiated, Fiji and PNG signed Interim EPA’s with the EU.

While this decision will affect other smaller pacific island countries, Director General for Trade, Ambassador Max Rai says the decision has been made.

“The (PNG) government has taken a stand now and we hope the message ripples right across the Pacific, that this (comprehensive EPA) will be a really wasteful effort. ”

Ambassador Rai said, they hope a comprehensive EPA with the EU will not be part of the agenda in the upcoming Pacific Islands Leaders Forum that will be in Port Moresby.

The other leg of the European tour was spent in Geneva, Poland and Brussels where talks were held with various prospective companies where discussions around downsteam processing were discussed.

The delegation was also on the lookout for companies in the field of telecommunication, shipping, banking and arilines to “drive the cost of business down” Minister Maru said.