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The faces behind some of PNGs illegal logging

August 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Chih-hao Chang, Hung Chin Ng and Sie Miew Tiong are the owners of Achim Agro Limited, a company accused by locals of illegally logging in East Sepik Province – see story below. The reports of SGS, the company that is supposed to monitor all log exports from PNG, contain no record of Achim Agro Limited.

Chang, who is Chinese, Ng and Tiong, who are Malaysian, are also the owners of two other PNG registered companies, Grace Foremost Limited and Wewak Cocoa Limited. All three companies were registered in 2016.

via Facebook

There is a Chinese Timber company “ACHIM ECO FORESTRY COMPANY” who has destroyed Turubu and has shifted their operations to Kauk in West Coast Dagua in East Sepik. They have destroyed and stolen a great deal of timber without paying the landowners and are now looking at grabbing our land by conning some of my relatives and KAIKAI man from SMAIN and BUT villages.

ACHIM have paid them lousy thousands of Kina to go in and harvest the timber. We have taken out a preventative order to stop them and we will be in court with them next week.

Governor Allan BirdKevin Isifu & Richard Maru, we need your help in removing this illegal company, grabbing land from ignorant land owners and making false promises to them.

Petition calls for ICAC within 100 days

July 27, 2017 1 comment

Source: ACT NOW!

Community advocacy group ACT NOW! has launched a petition calling on newly elected MPs to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption within 100 days.

“Everyone knows corruption is a massive problem in Papua New Guinea”, says Campaign Coordinator, Eddie Tanago. “People are dying unnecessarily every day because of the rampant stealing and the mismanagement it causes.”

ACT NOW! says well resourced, permanent and politically independent, Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] is desperately needed.

“This new petition is urging our newly elected MPs to take responsibility and do something effective by immediately establishing an ICAC,” says Mr Tanago.

ACT NOW! says the 100 day timetable is achievable as all the legislation needed for an ICAC has already been drafted and the necessary Constitutional amendment was passed by Parliament in 2016.

It has been estimated as much as 50% of the government’s annual development budget is stolen every yearand police have said K1.5 billion went missing in 2016 alone.2 PNG is ranked in the bottom 20% of all countries for corruption by Transparency International.3

“The consequences of this corruption are dire. Vital health and education services starved of money and mismanagement and abuse further impede service delivery. Then there are all the illegal land deals that keep happening and illegal logging”, says Mr Tanago.

“Existing anti-corruption mechanisms have proven to be ineffective and a new body with full powers of investigation and prosecution is urgently needed”.

“In 2012, the incoming government promised to establish an ICAC as a major step in the fight against corruption. But over the next five-years it failed to fulfil that promise. Our new MPs must ensure they do better”.

Tomato seeks to silence PNG political blogger Namorong

July 13, 2017 Leave a comment

KEITH JACKSON

THE Waigani National Court has granted an order sought by electoral commissioner Patilias ‘Tomato’ Gamato (pictured) against the celebrated Papua New Guinean writer, blogger, commentator and social justice fighter Martyn Namorong.

The order was granted by justice Collin Mikail in response to an urgent application by Gamato’s lawyer.

It sought to ban what were termed “defamatory remarks” about Gamato by Namorong.

It was reported the case arose “from alleged defamatory remarks the blogger made on social media associating commissioner Gamato to a fruit.”

That is, a tomato.

Namarong was not present for the hearing because court officials apparently could not locate the well-known public figure to serve documents.

Namorong responded by using social media to publish an image of himself gagged (pictured, with applause from his family).

And on Twitter, Namorong said: “Just heard I am being taken to court. I need a pro bono lawyer.”

To which PNG Attitude has offered to launch a public appeal to establish a fund to defend Namorong if the matter is pursued in court. Stand by, stout souls, on this one.

Mikail ruled the case must come before the court again on Monday 25 July, set to be known locally in some parts of the South Pacific as ‘International Tomato Day’.

Why these PNG elections are taking us towards dictatorship

July 4, 2017 1 comment

Oro Governor Gary Juffa speaking at a campaign gathering … explaining the qualities to look for in national leadership.

Source: Gary Juffa | Pacific Media Centre

I suspect that these Papua New Guinea elections have been so deliberately set to fail, leaving much room for fraud and confusion, that we will be distracted from what is really going on – the establishment of a dictatorship.

Already Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has his own special police unit that flies around Papua New Guinea escorting him in his private airlines, he has a special army unit of 40 exclusively for his callout, he controls the media and Public Service.

And, it seems, the Police and Defence commands — and perhaps the judiciary … the signs and red flags are blinking bright red now…

Yet many people do not see it at all. We are inching closer towards dictatorship and the ensuing bloodshed and violence that must come from the hostility towards it. But like lemmings and sheep, we are led to that reality with little resistance at all. Is this the Papua New Guinea we all believed in once upon a time?

Last Wednesday in Oro province provided a demonstration of how much the PNG government is not for PNG. It was also a demonstration of how democracy should not work.

For instance, the majority — between a third and a half — of Popondetta Urban voting age citizens have not voted because the current common roll does not have their names. Many citizens claim they had made the effort to update their details and were still turned away.

Preliminary roll ‘okay’
Meanwhile, Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has advised that the preliminary roll can be used. This means he indirectly agrees that the EC failed to effectively update the 2017 roll. This instruction was obviously not made known to Electoral Commission officials managing the polling at the Independence Oval on Wednesday.

Many people who had taken time out and had travelled to vote were turned away angry and anxious. This election was certainly costing them. They will have to come back for the last day, but the slowness will probably ensure that a large group will not have been processed by the end of the polling at 4pm.

This will mean that democracy certainly did not prevail in this instance. In fact, many will probably agree that come the end of these elections, democracy was hardly a reality everywhere in Papua New Guinea.

This should hardly be a surprise given that we have actually endured a covert dictatorship and hardly realised it.

Own effort
Meanwhile, not a few of the learned are saying that everyone should have made their own effort to ensure they were registered.

A true statement we all would like to agree with. I was tempted to think this way too. Then I thought of my people in rural PNG. My uncles and aunts who do not read or write and are at once the greatest selfless humans I know and, despite whatever people think, are equal shareholders of this great nation, Papua New Guinea.

They too deserve to vote. They too deserve to be informed. They too have the right to be given the opportunity to decide whether they want to update their details on the common role or not.

May I just say to all my learned friends making such statements as “it’s your fault if you are not on the roll; stop whinging”, that this would be true if the awareness programme had been been carried out sufficiently and it would be true in a society which is totally literate and where means of communication are available to all, a society that, say, had more then just 40 years or so as an independent nation of 1000 tribes with their own language groupings and cultural peculiarities.

Such statements are also spiteful about our people. Many of our people who live in rural PNG do not have access to the benefits of technology and modern services and goods that you may have had and may have now.

Our people, remember them? Well some of these are the people who will adore you and feed you and love you selflessly when or should you ever go home for a visit from time to time.

It would also be a safe statement to make if Papua New Guinea were governed by a government which allowed information access for all. A government that made funding available for provincial governments and relevant information dissemination entities like the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

Government by the people
Of course, that would have to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people …which this government clearly is not, if any of its decisions made in the last five years are anything to go by.

It is clear that the Electoral Commission failed. But the commission is not entirely to be blamed because, the buck stops at the top, and that’s the People’s National Congress (PNC) government of Peter O’Neill.

They have totally failed in the last five years to ensure that everyone was on the roll.

The awareness programme was an abysmal failure. Rural Papua New Guinea especially had virtually no knowledge of this. That’s 85 percent of PNG.

Adequately informed
Were our people adequately informed? They were not.

The Electoral Commission had five years to do this. It failed.

Just as it did with the K200 million national identity (NID) project. Deliberately too, it appears.

This government failed. Peter O’Neill failed

The 2017 Elections are looking very much like a failure.

A planned failure, perhaps … it has to be.

Sipping champagne
From the PNC government’s perspective, maybe they are chuckling and sipping champagne and congratulating each other on a job well done. Chaos provides opportunities for those who plan it to. Who knows?

Meanwhile in stark contrast, preparations for APEC seem to be going on very well. Surprise, surprise. Funding is abundantly available and preparatory meetings, plans, strategies and training and capacity testing efforts are well in progress. Not a few MPs whose companies will be involved in various services needed have already picked up hefty contracts.

So obviously the government can do a great job. If it suits them.

Ask yourself, is APEC more important then the democratic rights of a people to elect their leaders to represent their interests in Parliament?

This just shows how much the PNC government cares for its people. How much? In my measure, it was so weak and poor an effort, so pathetic, it was “zilch”.

Gary Juffa’s commentaries are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. This commentary is a combination of two of his latest pieces.

Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture 

June 29, 2017 2 comments

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government.

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd.

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine.

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.

UNDP head denies endorsing Paga Hill Development Company evictions

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Settlers moved from the foreshore at Paga Hill to the inland site of Gerehu, where they live in appalling conditions.  Photo: Aid Watch

Port Moresby settlers evicted to make way for Australian-backed development ‘abandoned’

Source: Heath Aston in Sydney Morning Herald

A majority of settlers evicted from a headland shanty town in Port Moresby to make way for a gated tourism and casino precinct backed by Australian property developers have been “simply abandoned”, with some now sleeping rough, according to human rights investigators.

Two Australian-run companies involved in moving squatters from waterfront Paga Hill and its foreshore between 2012 and 2014 dispute the numbers of people affected, but charities Aid Watch and Jubilee Australia claim 2000 of an estimated 3000 squatters were given no resettlement and in many cases no compensation, and up to 500 of those could be living on the streets of the capital.

They have also raised questions about the claimed success of resettlement programs for those relocated to make way for a gated waterfront estate that the PNG government has earmarked as a likely setting for the 2018 APEC conference of world leaders.

Australia is spending about $100 million to support the Port Moresby APEC summit, with a particular focus on security through the ongoing presence of the Australian Federal Police in PNG.

The brochure for the Paga Hill development showing the headland that has been cleared for development. Photo: Paga Hill Development Company

Former prime minister Tony Abbott said APEC would be “an important coming of age for PNG”.

Australian mining company Oil Search is building a floating reception centre to be called APEC Haus at the Paga Hill headland.

Human rights lawyer Brynn O’Brien, who is writing a report for Jubilee and Aid Watch, said Australia had a responsibility to the people of Paga Hill if it was backing the APEC meeting with public money.

“The Australian government should make a commitment not to support any event held on land associated with human rights violations until people have been resettled,” she told Fairfax Media.

Six Mile, another site were people were moved to. Photo: Aid Watch

“The majority of people were simply abandoned and a significant proportion of those, perhaps a quarter, are living under bridges, under buildings.”

The evictions, conducted with the support of armed PNG police, were raised at a recent senate estimates hearing where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Pacific division, Daniel Sloper, said it was not Australia’s responsibility.

Another humpy at Gerehu. Photo: Aid Watch

“Certainly there have been areas and villages that have moved on. I am not denying that at all,” he said.

“My only point was that was a responsibility of the PNG government rather than a responsibility of the Australian government.”

Paga Hill was once the focal point of Australia’s World War II defence of Port Moresby. The thousands of settlers who moved there in the decades after 1945 became known as “bunker people” for their use of abandoned wartime fortifications to create makeshift homes.

The Paga Hill Development Company is run by Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur “Gummi” Fridriksson, a former chief executive of Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute.

Last year Fairfax Media revealed a legal wrangle in which one PNG’s most revered former politicians, Carol Kidu, and the Paga Hill Development Company sought to block the release of an Australian documentary, The Opposition, about local resistance to the evictions.

Ms O’Brien interviewed people who were moved from the foreshore by Townsville-based civil contractors Curtain Bros, with the support of PNG’s National Capital District Commission to an area called Gerehu on the outskirts of Port Moresby.

She found at least 600 people living in homes made from “pieces of wood, sticks, fibro, sheet metal, tarpaulins” and without power or running water.

“At Gerehu lots of the adults and children are noticeably thin even by PNG standards, they appear malnourished. At Paga Hill their main source of protein was fish caught from the sea but this site is inland with no reliable public transport” she said.

Curtain Bros did not return calls.

At another resettlement site, known as Six Mile, the original facilities built by PHDC in 2014 are badly run down. The company offered resettlement of cash compensation for people living on the hill rather than those living on the foreshore and in other areas.

Of the estimated 400 people at Six Mile, according to Ms O’Brien, most remain in temporary accommodation – tents under a steel shed roof – because they can’t afford to enter into the “land use agreements” that were offered.

A Paga Hill Development Company spokesman said:

“PHDC cannot be held responsible for the relocation site almost three years after it was formally handed over in October 2014 to UN acclaim.”

The UN’s support for the project is in dispute.

Roy Trivedy, the United Nations’ resident co-ordinator in PNG, said he attended one meeting where he was impressed with written plans for the resettlement but has not been involved in anything to do with Paga Hill since.

“I’ve asked the company to stop using my name to endorse something I haven’t seen,” he said.

Legal battles over, controversial doco The Opposition finally gets home debut

May 1, 2017 1 comment

It began as a student film project but soon morphed into something much larger – including an unexpected and bruising legal battle.

Karl Quinn | Sydney Morning Herald | 29 April 2017

Dame Carol Kidu didn’t recognise the young Australian woman who said she wanted to make a film about her life in New Guinean politics in 2012, even though they’d shared breakfast a few years before that. But she has no trouble remembering Hollie Fifer now. It’s amazing how an ugly legal battle can jog the memory. 

Fifer, who is 28, first met Dame Carol with her mother Dimity, a former CEO of Australian Volunteers International, in 2008. By the time the then-AFTRS student pitched her film idea, PNG was in political turmoil, with Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill both claiming to be the legitimate prime minister of the country. Dame Carol broke the deadlock by stepping away from Somare’s party to become leader of a one-woman opposition. 

Hollie Fifer, director of the controversial PNG documentary The Opposition, fought a long battle to screen the film. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

To Fifer, “it seemed like a great story”, even if she also suspected “I’d arrived too late” to record it at its best.

But as they were filming an interview in Port Moresby in May 2012, Dame Carol received a phone call: a shanty settlement on Paga Hill, near the centre of town, was being bulldozed, its 3000 inhabitants were about to be scattered to the winds, and the developer responsible was Australian.

In that moment, a different film was born.

“She said, ‘Do you want to come’, and I didn’t know what to expect but I said ‘yeah’,” Fifer says. “Then this entire scene happened that completely changed everything.”

As Dame Carol strode about Paga Hill trying to convince police to stop what was going on, Fifer kept her camera rolling. Here was a real-life David v Goliath story, with the country’s only female parliamentarian as the unlikely hero of the people. Or so it seemed.

Over the course of the film’s evolution, Dame Carol’s role changed massively. She left the Parliament. She set up a consultancy, and was hired by the Paga Hill Development Corporation, on a contract of $178,000 for three months’ work. And she became determined to prevent Fifer’s footage of her from ever seeing the light of day.

Dame Carol wasn’t the main character in Fifer’s film, but she was a key player, featuring in about 20 minutes of it. In March 2016, she launched legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW demanding those scenes be redacted. She claimed she had never consented to being in such a documentary. The release she signed was merely for a student film, not for something that might be shown commercially. She claimed the film misrepresented her. 

Dame Carol Kidu argues the point with police at Paga Hill in May 2012, as seen in The Opposition. Photo: supplied

Fifer’s film was set to debut at the prestigious Hot Docs festival in Toronto in May 2016. On April 22, Dame Carol was granted a temporary injunction against the inclusion of the footage in which she appeared.

Fifer had a week and a half to recut her film. Where Dame Carol had been, the screen was now black, with a narration read by actress Sarah Snook explaining what was happening, and why. But the day before she was due to fly to Toronto, Fifer was back in court, being ordered to make more tweaks.

PNG land rights activist Joseph Moses (foreground) in a scene from the film. Photo: Supplied

“The hard drive was still warm when I took it to the airport the next morning,” she says.

“It was literally a hot doc. We hadn’t even seen it by the time we screened it. My producer, Rebecca Barry, and I were just looking at each other thinking, ‘I hope this works’.”

Dame Carol Kidu went from opposing the demolition of houses at Paga Hill to working as a consultant for the developer. Photo: Melissa Adams

It did, and in June, the court ruled against Dame Carol’s application for permanent redaction of the footage in which she appeared.

Now, finally, The Opposition is to have its full Australian premiere, on the opening night of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

Fifer (centre) leaves the Sydney Law Courts on April 14, 2016. She had little to smile about a week later as Dame Carol won a temporary injunction against her film. Photo: James Alcock

It’s been a long and bruising journey for all parties. Joe Moses, the Paga Hill activist who is the real hero of Fifer’s movie, spent a couple of years in hiding but is now in the UK, studying international human rights law. Many of the former residents of Paga Hill are homeless in downtown Port Moresby; those who took the inducements to move are still living in the tents they were told would be temporary. There are 200 of them at a place called Six Mile, says Fifer, under rotting canvas, with one tap and a toilet that doesn’t work properly.

As for Fifer herself, she says after five years on this one she’s in no hurry to race into the next project.

“I don’t want to just launch into another one because I want to make a film – I want to launch into it knowing this is something that needs to exist.”

She wants to put the difficult journey of her film to good use, and is looking for ways to share what she learnt with other documentary makers, if only so they don’t have to go through the same things.

“I feel like I’ve had a bit of an experience with this film. I don’t feel it’s right for me to silo that and move on to the next film, to go, ‘Oh that’s good that I learnt all that, but it’s just for me’.”

It would be fair to say she’s in a cooling-off period, but she insists she hasn’t gone cold.

“I’m up for a good challenge,” she says, smiling wryly. “But maybe a little less of a challenge.”

The Opposition is opening night film at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, which runs May 4-18 in Melbourne, May 23-27 in Sydney, May 29-31 in Canberra, June 1-3 in June and June 1 in Perth and June 2 in Hobart. Details: hraff.org.au