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Posts Tagged ‘Human rights’

Juffa slams ‘another logging scam’

November 1, 2017 2 comments

Inspection of Ifane Agro Forestry Project

Update by Gary Juffa via FaceBook

As usual as has been the case with such dubious projects done without the approval of my Office and the Provincial Executive Committee.

This is the other Forestry scam besides SABL: FCA – FOREST CLEARING AUTHORITY.

Here public servants in provinces corroborate with PNGFA officials and dubious “landowners” to award permits via the PNGFA BOARD to log chunks of land of 500 hectares to logging pirates on the pretext of “tree growing” and “agricultural projects”.

Thing is.. these are the same plunderers who pay no taxes and have planted no trees or a single agricultural species of plant or animal life for the last 20 – 30 years…

My inspection in reaction to landowner petitions revealed massive breaches of various laws including environmental, trespassing, labour, transport, migration and others.

I took Administration officials who confessed giving approvals without bringing to my attention first. The officials were showed the various areas of concern that the company blatantly logged in breach of various laws and instructed to act immediately and impose penalties.

Interviewed some of the landowners who all admitted they are “partners”.. but have not been paid.. despite truckloads of high value logs leaving their land.

Meanwhile a dispute remains as to who are actual landowners.

Instructed PNGFA and Administration to immediately furnish documents for the so called project, instruct company to cease operations until they pay fines for all breaches and we have investigated their legality of operations, inform all clans to congregate end of November to deliberate on damages and trespassing and compile case to sue for damages.

See also – Yet another unlawful attempt to log Collingwood Bay

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Yet another unlawful attempt to log Collingwood Bay

October 28, 2017 1 comment

Collingwood Bay. Photo Eric Wakker

Industry observer: “This is a complete nonsense… a cocoa project simply doesn’t need a massive hectarage, involving massive forestry clearance and equipment… It’s clearly another completely fraudulent exercise, made easier by the lack of penalties imposed upon the existing SABL perpetrators”

By Lester Seri

The National Forest Authority has granted permission for logging in the Collingwood Bay area of Northern Province despite the strong opposition of local people.

This is the third attempt at large-scale commercial logging in the area, the two previous attempts having been successfully defeated through the courts.

It is understood Northern Forest Products Ltd and Aisor Development Corporation have been issued a Forest Clearance Authority (FCA) to log Portions 136, 137 and up to Baruga lands  and to the Musa river.

According to the maps seen, its seems the entire Collingwood Bay area is to be consumed by logging under the pretext of planting cocoa.

Local people have been given no information about the proposed logging and have not seen a copy of the FCA proposal, or any approval granted by the National Forest Board or the Forest Minister.

Requests to the Forest Authority for these documents have gone unanswered and local people are totally in the dark as to how the authorities could give approval without even consulting local people and without ensuring their consent.

Meanwhile a company (allegedly involving a Malaysian and some Wanigela landowners) has been landing logging equipment at  Wanigela since April this year. The equipment is being stored at Naukwat village, a home to one of the people known to have been directly involved in the illegal Collingwood Bay SABL that was declared illegal by the National Court in June 2014.

Collingwood Bay landowners are at a loss to understand the continuing defiance by the National Forest Authority to grant licences for logging concessions in their area despite court rulings after court ruling in favour of the landowners that span nearly 30 years.

There are rumours that the Provincial Government and the Administration are in support of a cocoa project in Collingwood Bay, and it is alleged that the new FCA and movement of logging machineries have their approval?

Questions asked are:

  1. Why have the landowners not been officially made aware of this government sanctioned cocoa project?
  2. Why does the cocoa planting require bulldozers, jinkers and graders, when the landowners need only knives, spades and axes to plant cocoa.

The Baruga landowners have already put up tabu markings stopping anybody moving into their private land.

The National Forest Authority has miserably failed many landowning communities’ in Papua New Guinea over the years and continues to do so in Collingwood Bay through the illegal SABL and now this suspect FCA.

The Collingwood Bay people have held community consultation forums since 2014 and have unanimously agreed to pursuing their own Community Conservation Initiative. This received final community approval in April 2017, and funding support has been secured.

It seems the National Forest Authority is intent on deliberately truncating / DESTROYING the Communities’ Conservation Initiative over 650,000 hectares of land by encouraging logging without the consent of the local people.

I AM OF THE STRONG VIEW THAT IT IS TIME FOR THE ENTIRE COLLINGWOOD BAY COMMUNITIES’ TO CONVERGE AT WANIGELA AND DEMAND AN EXPLANATION FROM THOSE CONCERNED, THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT AND THE ADMINISTRATION, AND THE RESPECTIVE FORESTRY OFFICES IN PORT MORESBY AND POPONDETTA.

The faces behind some of PNGs illegal logging

August 18, 2017 2 comments

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.

Papua New Guinea land activist vows to battle for his people from Britain

August 9, 2017 2 comments

Leader of the Paga Hill seafront community Joe Moses, pictured in London, July 11, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nicky Milne

Ruairi Casey for the Thomson Reuters Foundation

A land activist from Papua New Guinea at loggerheads with the police and developers in his home country has vowed to continue the fight for his community from Britain.

Joe Moses has accused PNG authorities of treating people unfairly in demolishing the Paga Hill seafront settlement in the capital Port Moresby to make way for a luxury hotel and apartments development and a ring road.

The government granted a lease to the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), a joint venture between local and international investors, to build on Paga Hill.

A Supreme Court ruling said the reclaimed seafront area was not included in the original lease but Moses said, unknown to the community, this land was leased by the state to developers during legal proceedings.

Moses, who features in a newly released documentary “The Opposition: Paga Hill“, said the settlement, dating back about 70 years, was home to about 2,000 people who had customary rights to the land and should have been allowed to stay.

“The whole community was a vibrant community,” Moses told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London where he is seeking asylum while his wife and children remain in Port Moresby.

“I just miss home every day, every minute of the day when I’m here.”

POLICE DENY INTIMIDATION

Moses, a former university worker, said his clash with authorities dated back to May 2012 when he led a fight in the courts to stop development.

In October that year, he said a policeman arrived at his home seeking his arrest without charge and shortly afterwards he went into hiding in an army barracks with his family.

He stayed in Port Moresby but his concerns for his safety grew in 2014 when armed police forced out the remaining residents from the Paga Hill settlement and their homes were bulldozed.

“I realized they were still after me,” said Moses. “I was not free to go to public places, public gatherings; all my communications were tapped.”

The police, however, accused Moses of discharging a gun, resisting arrest and causing civil unrest.

In a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a police spokesman denied allegations of intimidation and accused Moses of seeking fame from an international audience.

“There is no threat whatsoever on Joe Moses. He can come home anytime he wants to. There has been and will be no intimidation,” the spokesman said in an email.

Moses said with the assistance of international NGOs he was able to secure a flight from Papua New Guinea to Panama in November 2016 and then onto Britain.

“The most important thing is I need to get my family out … we need to be safe somewhere while waiting for the situation to change,” he said.

Moses said he hoped he will be able to return to Papua New Guinea someday to continue his fight to get fair compensation for his community, many of whom are still living in tents on a relocation site without suitable water and sewerage facilities.

A PHDC statement said the company was “proud of having achieved the first privately-funded squatter settlement relocation in PNG” with the site handed over in 2014.

“The fact that the relocation site was officially handed over almost three years ago, as well as that many settlers have since on-sold and moved on, PHDC can in no way be reasonably held accountable for the current state of the relocation site, or for those that PHDC relocated,” PHDC’s statement said.

Moses, however, vowed to press on with his campaign.

“I know that I will face consequences, but someone has to do something … If it means life and death I will have to do this – because someone has to do something to help the people,” he said.

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.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: after 1386 days is it finally over?

April 10, 2017 1 comment

Has Prime Minister Peter O’Neill finally acted on his promises and ended the SABL land grab and stopped the illegal logging?

It is now 1,386 days since the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detailed the widespread fraud and mismanagement that allowed foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 50 thousand square kilometres of land.

Over that time the Prime Minister has made repeated promises to cancel the leases and stop the logging but, for almost four years, nothing has happened, while the logging companies continued to chop down and export logs worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But, in recent statements, both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Lands have claimed the government has finally acted and CANCELLED all the SABL leases.

Minister Benny Allen has been quoted saying:

“The Government has taken a blanket cancellation of all special agriculture business leases in the country and as we speak, they are all illegal”.

“I have given directions to acting secretary to write letters to all special agriculture business lease holders, informing them that the leases that they are holding are illegal and no longer in force now. It’s another useless document of no legal value and effect”.

There is, of course, a sting in the tail; the Prime Minister and Minister Allen also say the government will now assist ‘genuine’ investors to acquire a new title to the land they have illegally occupied, using incorporated land groups and land registration. It is not clear which SABL areas this applies to, although the PM has singled out Rimbunan Hijau’s operations in Pomio for praise, despite the strong community opposition to the logging and oil palm operations there.

Silent though has been Logging Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa. Has the Forest Authority stopped all logging in SABL areas and are all the Forest Clearance Authorities being cancelled or withdrawn?

Without any word from the Minister or PNG Forest Authority, the public will be wise to remain skeptical.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

O’Neill sells out to RH over SABL land grab on eve of election

April 5, 2017 1 comment

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has signalled he is backtracking on four-years of promises to cancel the unlawful SABL leases and return land to its customary owners.

Just three weeks ago, the Prime Minister berated the Department of Lands for not carrying out orders to cancel the leases and said the foreigners involved “should be put on a plane and sent back home”.

But, on Friday, the PM endorsed what he now says is the Lands Department’s ‘balanced approach’ and he specifically endorsed Rimbunan Hijau’s logging and oil palm operations in the Pomio District, which he said must be allowed to continue.

Over the past six years RH has exported over 1.2 million cubic metres of logs and netted more than K300 million in income from logging operations on land stolen through three Pomio SABL leases.

The SABL leases were obtained using fraud and forgery and the forests have been logged without the lawful consent of local people. The villagers have been consistently beaten and intimidated by police employed by RH to suppress any dissent.

The plight of the communities has been highlighted in various international reports and on video but RH is now pressing ahead to get access into two further SABL areas.

With more than 6.6 million cubic metres of logs worth over K2 billion stolen from SABL areas across the country, it seems the loggers money is proving irresistible to our political leaders as the election approaches.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty