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Archive for March, 2017

Australian doors wide open for money stolen in PNG

March 31, 2017 2 comments

A new Transparency International report says Australia is wide open for corrupt elites from overseas, including Papua New Guinea, to launder the proceeds of grand corruption through the Australian real estate market.

“There is clear evidence that such investment in Australian property is an easy and convenient way to hide hundreds of millions of dollars from criminal investigators, tax authorities or others tracking criminal behaviour and the proceeds of crime”.

The report, Doors Wide Open Corruption and Real Estate in Four Key Markets, says Australia has severe deficiencies under all 10 areas identified in the research and is therefore not in line with any of the commitments to tackle corruption and money laundering in real estate made in international forums.

TI says in Australia, real estate agents are not subject to the provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter- Terrorism Financing Act 2006. Other professionals such as lawyers and accountants who may also play a role in the sector are not covered either. This means that properties can be bought and sold without any due diligence on the parties.

“Currently there are no requirements for real estate agents or any professional involved in real estate deals to submit Suspicious Transaction Report, even if they suspect illegal activity is taking place, and there are no requirements or rules for verifying whether customers are Politically Exposed Persons or their close associates”.

APEC is a criminal waste of money

March 30, 2017 4 comments

K800 million is being spent to enrich the Port Moresby club of politicians, construction companies and hoteliers. And all under the guise of playing host to APEC – an international organisation that promotes the same colonial economic policies that have failed Papua New Guinea for the past 30 years.

APEC is a business club that wants to continue to exploit PNG’s rich natural resources for its own benefit; that wants to continue to boost our false export economy at the expense of the real mainstream economy that is based on rural enterprise, local markets and honest endeavour by village people living on and working their own land.

Development does not come from outside, as APEC and its supporters claim and it does not trickle down from large-scale resource extraction; real development has to come from within – by supporting small local businesses and rural agriculture, not building flashy infrastructure in Port Moresby for the elites to enjoy.

Imagine what could be achieved if all the effort from politicians and bureaucrats that is going into organising the APEC summit was being put in to improving our health and education services or agricultural extension work? All those hours of effort by public servants, all that coordination and all that support from overseas?

Imagine what K800 million, spent wisely could do for rural infrastructure and transport?

Seeing it all wasted on opening up PNG to more foreign exploitation is not just sad, it is a crime!

O’Neill’s illegal land grab: 1372 days and counting…

March 27, 2017 3 comments

There is still NO ACTION to reverse the huge SABL land grab. NO ACTION to return the land to customary landholders and NO ACTION to stop the illegal logging in SABL areas.

This is despite repeated statements from the Prime Minister that the leases are illegal and will be cancelled.

It is now 1,372 days since the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement that has allowed foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 50 thousand square kilometres of land.

But for almost four years ago, all we have heard from Prime Minister O’Neill are EMPTY PROMISES that the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

The latest statement from O’Neill was just two weeks ago. On 14 March, O’Neill said all the SABL licenses are illegal in this country” and will be cancelled.

This echoed repeated statements he has made over the past three years. In September 2013, O’Neill said in 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 supposedly 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” 

In 2015 the Chief Secretary stated:

“It is widely known that vast amounts of pristine forest have been logged to enrich a corrupt few people, while landowners have unknowingly lost their most valuable asset – their land”.

On November 4, 2016, O’Neill told Parliament and the Nation:

“I am pleased to say that all the SABL leases to be cancelled, instruction has now gone to the Lands Dept and as of today I can assure you that leases are now being cancelled and where there are projects now existing, we’ve encouraged the landowners to renegotiate many of those leases arrangements that they have made with the developers.

“These leases were given without much thought in the past. As a result, a lot of the landowners stood to lose all their years of generations of ownership over the land that they have had for many years.

“We do not want the rightful landowners lose their rights to land.

“That is why we have instructed the department of Lands and Forestry to cancel all the SABL.”

But, despite all the promises, no action has been taken to cancel the leases, landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the logging to be stopped.

For 1,372 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

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.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

Land Minister Benny Allen swallowed up by the SABL corruption he vowed to fight

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Allen swallowed up by corruption

In October 2012, the then new Lands Minister, Benny Allen spoke eloquently about the rampant corruption in his Department that had led to the SABL land grab and other abuses:

I have seen firsthand the blatant abuse of due process thereby promoting corruption and high level of inefficiency within the department of Lands & Physical Planning. The system of land administration is corrupt and dysfunctional.

First, I will implement the policy of zero tolerance on corruption within the Department. Corruption has resulted in the loss of large parcels of land owned both by customary land owners and the State.

As you all are aware, blatant abuse of process facilitated by staff within the Department over the years has led to large areas of customary land being fraudulently leased to foreigners for as long as 99 years throughout the country.

In the interest of protecting Papua New Guinea land from being fraudulently transacted, I will ensure that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Issuance of Special Agriculture Businesses Leases (SABL) are fully implemented.[1]

Now, more than four years later, not one lease has been cancelled and the Minister has radically changed his position, seemingly swallowed up by the same corruption he vowed to fight.

Rather than ensuring the SABL Commission of Inquiry recommendations are fully implemented and the leases cancelled as he promised, the Minister is now trying to endorse and consolidate the land grab by issuing new leases to the very same companies that stole the land in the first place.

The Minister says his Department is “converting these SABLs into customary land leases through the Incorporated Landowner Group and Voluntary Customary Lands Registration concepts.” [2]

It seems the only way the Prime Minister can now uphold his own promises to ensure the leases are cancelled will be to remove the Lands Minister…

Endnotes
1. National Land Development Conference 
Opening Speech, 12 October 2012
2. Post Courier, 15 March 2017

O’Neill’s illegal logging – 1365 days and counting…

March 20, 2017 2 comments

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

O’Neill’s illegal logging – 1358 days and counting…

March 13, 2017 1 comment

There is still NO ACTION to reverse the huge SABL land grab. NO ACTION to return the land to customary landholders and NO ACTION to stop the illegal logging in SABL areas.

It is now 1,358 days since the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement that has allowed foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 50 thousand square kilometres of land.

Since June 2013, more than three-and-a-half years ago, O’Neill has REPEATEDLY promised us the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

In September 2013, O’Neill said in 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 supposedly 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” 

In 2015 the Chief Secretary stated:

“It is widely known that vast amounts of pristine forest have been logged to enrich a corrupt few people, while landowners have unknowingly lost their most valuable asset – their land”.

And on November 4, 2016, O’Neill told Parliament and the Nation:

“I am pleased to say that all the SABL leases to be cancelled, instruction has now gone to the Lands Dept and as of today I can assure you that leases are now being cancelled and where there are projects now existing, we’ve encouraged the landowners to renegotiate many of those leases arrangements that they have made with the developers.

“These leases were given without much thought in the past. As a result, a lot of the landowners stood to lose all their years of generations of ownership over the land that they have had for many years.

“We do not want the rightful landowners lose their rights to land.

“That is why we have instructed the department of Lands and Forestry to cancel all the SABL.”

But, despite all the promises, no action has been taken to cancel the leases, landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the logging to be stopped.

For 1,358 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

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.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

Why an ICAC is needed, not another fruitless inquiry

March 10, 2017 1 comment

Source: ACT NOW! 

The Prime Minister’s announcement of an Administrative Inquiry into the Manumanu land deals and naval base relocation is just another exercise in covering up corruption and avoiding justice.

We have seen numerous lengthy and expensive Commission’s of Inquiry over the years but no action to address the corrupt behavior they uncover. It will be the same with the latest inquiry, whether it is termed as a Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Inquiry.

This is because such inquiries lack a crucial power – the power to take action against those revealed to be involved in corruption; instead all they can do is make recommendations, recommendations that, history tells us, usually get ignored.

Such inquiries are also flawed because their initial timeframes and budgets are often insufficient when they uncover so much wrongdoing. This leads to delays and sometimes the inquiries end up taking several years. They can also lack political independence, being appointed directly by the Prime Minister, and their reports can be hard to access.

This is why Papua New Guinea desperately needs a well-funded Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with the power to immediately investigate and prosecute allegations of corrupt behaviour.

The Government of Peter O’Neil was elected in 2012 on a promise to combat corruption at all levels through the establishment of an ICAC. It has failed to deliver on that promise, and instead it continues to waste public funds on administrative inquiries whose recommendations are usually never implemented, and sometimes, not even published.

In 2013, the Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural Business Lease recommended forty unlawful leases be revoked, but those recommendations continue to be ignored. Crucially the Commission also failed to report on one-third of the leases investigated and failed to identify with clarity the government officers responsible for the unlawful land grab or recommend action against them.

In 2014, there was the Commission of Inquiry into Law Firm Brief Outs, that report has never been published.

Prior to that, a Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance found K 780 million in public funds had been stolen and recommended the prosecution of a list of 35 persons.  Almost none of those persons have been arrested or charged.

And whatever happened to the Commission of Inquiry into the Investment Corporation, Defence Force Retirement Fund and National Provident Fund? Where are those reports now and why has so little action been taken?

Corruption in this country is prevalent in all sectors of society and its impacts are far-reaching! Corrupt activities are not just carried out by public office holders. It is really a collaborative effort of individuals from elected officials, appointed public and constitutional office holders, clergymen, civil servants, foreign and local companies, business associates and even family members of these individuals!

It is for this reason a well-resourced, self-funded, Independent Commission Against Corruption with wide powers is needed to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals – not another pointless inquiry.