Gross Violation of Human Rights at Rimbunan Hijau’s Logging Operation In Kamusi – Middle Fly, Western Province
I am a patriotic and proud Papua New Guinean citizen and I like travelling the breath and width of our beautiful country. I have always been fascinated by the natural beauty of the Western Province and so lately, I travelled to a particular location in Western Province, I have never been to before. My destination this time was Kamusi in the Bamu Local Level Government, Middle Fly District, Western Province. Kamusi is a logging camp and head office of a huge logging operation owned and run by Ribunan Hijau (RH) Group of companies, the owners of Vision City Mall in Port Moresby.
While there, I soon found out that everything in and around the logging operation was controlled by the logging company and its hordes of Asian employees mainly of Malaysian origin. Their dominance over the helpless and mostly illiterate local workforce was something, I as an intellectual Papua New Guinean saw as gross violation of human rights of Papua New Guinean citizens (both employees and local villagers). I was therefore compelled to write something about the issues I witnessed so that someone with the power and authority can do something to help our fellow country men and women in that part of the Western Province.
Of all human rights violations and abuse by the company and its foreign employees, there was one that really touched my heart and in a way made me really angry but sad at the same time. On my second day at the camp, I befriended a local community policeman. The local community policeman told me that he had to deal with a case a few days earlier where a 12 year old girl was raped and violated by an elderly Malaysian employee of the company.
The incident occurred on the 1st March 2016, when the perpetrator who had befriended the family of the girl lured the girl to his house where he penetrated the girl’s vagina and anus causing extensive tear and bleeding. The Asian man finally released the girl at around 7 pm. At this time the girl’s family were already out looking for her since she had been gone for a long time and it was now beginning to get dark. The girl could hardly walk but finally made it home where she told her mother about the incident.
Relatives of the girl, after hearing of the girl’s ordeal, mobilised and demanded that the Asian man be arrested by the local community police (there are no regular police at Kamusi) and charged. He was arrested that evening and locked up at the company run police station holding cell while the girl was taken to the company clinic for a medical check. The Asian man was released on the same day when the company intervened.
The father’s intention was for the Asian man to be brought to court to stand trial, however, in the morning of the next day, the company boss sent for the parents of the girl purposely to negotiate compensation payment. The father was a former company employee while the mother is still employed by the company as a casual labourer at the company’s timber mill. According to Richard the local community policeman, the company paid K12,000.00 to the girl’s father and the perpetrator is now a free man currently working as a welder at the main Kamusi camp dock.
This is not an isolated incident but a recurring norm where Asian employees, mainly of Malaysian origin, use local girls to satisfy their appetite for sex. There are also rumours of young girls being lured with money to engage with Asian company employees in the production of pornographic materials.
Apart from the above incidents, here are further examples of Human rights Issues, abuse and violations committed by the company towards PNG citizens at Kamusi.
There is nil safety concern of any sort what so ever in the logging operations. PNG citizens have to work very long hours under very risky environment and paid a rate under the minimum wages set by the government. I witnesses and interviewed someone working as a mechanic from 5am to 9pm (15 hours) and paid at a rate of K2.29 per hour. I believe this is the previous minimum wages some years back.
The company uses intimidation techniques including flying in police from Port Moresby and threat of loss of employment to suppress any work related issues and complaints employees may want to bring to the company’s attention.
Abuse of local women/girls through pretentious marriage. There are now so many mixed races (Malaysia) in the Bamu LLG than anywhere else in PNG. Most of these mix race children’s fathers have gone back to Malaysia leaving the mother and children to fend for themselves.
Poverty is now a major problem in the area especially with the logging operation winding down and the people after being dependent on the company for over 30 years have forgotten their traditional way of life. The company is lying to its employees that timber price is currently down so they are only downsizing. But the matter of the fact in there is no more logs to harvest as the company did not replant during their 35 years of logging operation in the area.
In regards to workers compensation, there has been no confirmed report of workers being compensated for injuries sustained during official working hours. However, the local community and workforce have confirmed that there have been numerous instances of injuries and fatalities at the workplace. Workers compensation is merely non-existent and non-negotiable with company.
The company has a way of getting every toea back from its workers and so devices ways to ensure of it and keep its employees in a vicious cycle of credit and being indebted to the company. It encouraged workers to get store goods from the company store on credit and settling it by deductions from the employee’s fortnightly pay leaving most employees with virtually nothing in their pay packet and thereby compelling them to get things on credit again for the coming weeks. Even Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like safety boots are not issued free to employees but the cost is also deducted from the employee’s pay packet.
Superannuation contributions and personal income taxes are deducted but most workers have never seen a single statement on their super contribution. Whether these deductions are genuine and are actually remitted to the relevant organisations and statutory bodies remain a mystery unless investigations are conducted into the operation of the company.
Employees live in squalid and often over-crowded and poorly ventilated housing conditions while the Asian expat employees live in houses considered fit for humans. One could see from a distance the deteriorating state of housing for PNG citizen employees and envisage the appalling living condition of these employees.
The local clinic is owned by the company and provides substandard health care service. It has a Pilipino so called doctor and three (3) PNG CHWs. The facility does not conform to most of NDoH standard procedures and treatment protocols. It is more or less a smoke screen employed by the company probably to tick boxes regarding logging licence conditions and corporate responsibilities towards locals. HIV, TB and Malaria are some of the health issues not properly addresses at the company clinic since the company has failed to properly equip the facility to effectively function. There is also the possibility of Multi Drug Resistance TB (MDRTB) occurring and an increase in HIV cases which could result in a catastrophic situation some years into the future.
In conclusion, government services and mere presence in the area are minimal to none. Employees and local villagers are powerless to raise their voices and report unfair treatment and violations impeding on their rights as citizens of this country. Employees and locals feel that their whole lively hood depend entirely on the company and any action seen to impede on the company’s operation would be met with severe repercussions including loss of employment and intimidation and physical abuse by hired police from Port Moresby and other centres.
I hope someone out there would be able to assist our people in Kamusi, Western Province.
GOD Help and Bless PNG.
True PNG Patriot