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O’Neill’s illegal logging: 1169 days and counting…

September 5, 2016 Leave a comment

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Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

SABL_billboard

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 1155 days and counting…

August 22, 2016 1 comment

count

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

sabl cartoon

Malaysian company destroying cocoa blocks and evicting landholders in East New Britain

March 16, 2016 Leave a comment
From left: Tan, Malaysia High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Jilid Kuminding, C.B Lim, ENBP co- chairman Datuk Lim Soon Foo, Papua New Guinea Deputy Prime Minister Leo Deon, East New Britain governor Ereman Tobaining Jr and company officials and guests at the opening of the group’s first mill in East New Britain.

Papua New Guinea Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion and Tzen company officials

A Malaysian owned group of companies is destroying a large number of smallholder cocoa blocks and forcibly evicting families using armed police on the Gazelle peninsula in East New Britain, says a local observer.

Tzen Niugini, Tzen Plantations and East New Britain Palm Oil are a group of companies controlled by Chinese Malaysians Ronnie Hai Liang Lim and Lea Ping Ong. The companies are all involved in the Kairak Oil Palm project.

The oil palm area covers customary land, State land, previously part of the Keravat forest area, and Land Settlement Scheme blocks. Although some customary landowners are said to support the new project it is believed at least two of five local groups have not given their informed consent.

Many of the cocoa block holders who have been forcibly evicted, have been receiving grants from the World Bank under its $50 million Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) which was designed to revive the cocoa industry.

It is alleged the Malaysian companies have no land titles and no environmental permit, but authorities are ignoring their actions.

Ping and Liang are also the owners of the Malaysian registered company Tzen Plantations Sdn. Bhd.

According to the SABL Commission of Inquiry there is a 23,073 ha lease over Portions 908C and 909C issued by the Department of Lands to ‘Kairak Development Corporation’ for an oil palm plantation.

Court Rulings confirm SABLs null and void

August 27, 2015 1 comment

0428.woodlark.tree_.Forest.600_news.mongabay.com_

Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL) have been used to secure the mass alienation of over 5 million hectares of customary land for periods of up to 99 years.While the debate over cancellation of the leases rages on between civil society groups, affected landowners and the State, it is interesting to examine what the Courts have said about these land deals.

Since 2007 there have been five reported legal cases in which the validity of an SABL has been challenged through the Courts. In all five cases the courts have found the SABL was not granted in accordance with the law and proper process and the breaches by Department of Lands Physical Planning (DLPP) were so serious that the lease was declared null and void.

These findings add weight to those of the SABL Commission of Inquiry which also found serious breaches of the law and proper process and recommended all but four of the 42 leases reported on be revoked.

Here is a brief summary of the Court cases:

Ramu Nickel Ltd v Temu [2007]

This case involved a SABL granted over land described as portion 19C, Milinch Sepu, Fourmil Ramu, Madang Province in August 2003. The Court, granted an order quashing the decision of the Minister for Lands granting the lease and the registration of the lease by the Registrar of Titles. The court also ordered the Registrar of Titles to de-register or cancel the registration of the lease.

Musa Valley Management Company Ltd v Kimas [2010]

A SABL over 211,600ha of land at Portion 16C, Milinch Gona, Fourmil Tufi was granted to Muida Holdings Limited in December 2008. In finding the lease null and void the Court declared that:

“The procedures for acquisition of the land by the State under Sections 10 and 11 and for granting of the lease under Section 102 were not complied with as the customary landowners or at least a substantial majority of them did not agree to either process…The errors of law were significant. The acquisition by the State of customary land, by lease, under Sections 10 and 11 of the Land Act and the subsequent granting of a lease by the State to a lessee can only proceed lawfully if a substantial majority of customary landowners agree. There was a lack of agreement in this case at both stages of the process…The Secretary’s decisions to grant the lease were seriously flawed and therefore his decisions were quashed and the leases declared null and void.”

Mahuru v Dekena [2013]

This case also involved a SABL granted over an 8.51 hectare block of land at Taurama Valley in the National Capital District in June 2010. The Court found that the procedures in the Land Act were not followed and the Minister erred in law by:

  • not meeting with the plaintiffs and agreeing on the terms and conditions on which the land would be acquired by the State, contrary to Section 10(2)
  • not inquiring into and being satisfied of the use of the land, contrary to Section 10(3)
  • not ensuring that an instrument of lease in the approved form was executed by or on behalf of the customary landowners, contrary to Section 11(2)
  • granting the lease to the fifth defendants, who had not been appointed by the plaintiffs or their clan members, contrary to Section 102(2)

The errors of law were so numerous and serious as to amount to constructive fraud. The Court’ quashed the lease and the lease was declared null and void.

Justice Cannings stated:

“To lawfully grant a Special Agricultural and Business Lease over customary land the Minister must comply with all of the requirements of Sections 10, 11 and 102”.

“The elaborate procedures in Sections 10, 11 and 102 of the Land Act have been inserted for a reason: to ensure that leases over customary land are granted only after a thorough identification and investigation of the land and the customary landowners and their agreement to what is proposed. In PNG land is a critical natural resource required by National Goal Number 4 to be conserved and used for the benefit of the present generation and for the benefit of future generations”

“Decisions about the transfer of interests in customary land must be made carefully and thoughtfully and in strict accordance with procedures prescribed by law.”

Maniwa v Malijiwi [2014]

This case involved a SABL over Portion 144C, East Sepik Province, granted to Sepik Oil Palm Plantation Limited in September 2008. The judge reiterated that in order to lawfully grant a Special Agricultural and Business Lease over customary land, the Minister must comply with all the requirements of Section 10, 11, and 102 of the Land Act.

In this case the Minister had failed to comply with those Sections.

The court also found the SABL was issued in breach of S.53 of the Constitution, in that the landowners were unlawfully deprived of their customary land.

For these reasons, the SABL was declared null and void and “Any other related actions or projects undertaken or done either pursuant to or in relation to the SABL, such as logging agreements and or planting of oil palm in the SABL area are also declared illegal and null and void”.

Isu v Ofoi OS [2014]

This case involved two SABLs. First, the SABL over Portion 113C Milinch Murua Fourmil Tufi, Oro Province granted to Sibo Management Limited in July 2012 was declared null and void and was quashed.

Secondly, the SABL over Portion 143C Milinch Kupari Fourmil Tufi, Oro Province granted to Wanigela Agro Industrial Limited in July 2012 was also declared null and void and was quashed.

The court ordered the original owner copies of the title deeds be surrendered to the Registrar of Titles for cancellation and the Registrar to make all necessary amendments and deletions to the Register of State Leases to give effect to the Order.

Conclusions

These five cases have made it to the Courts because of the determination and drive on the part of landholder groups to organize, fundraise and seek justice from the Court. But what about the numerous others cases stalled in the judicial process or which are unable to even be registered because landholder groups do not have the means to engage in a court battle? When is the State going to intervene on behalf of its people and ensure the rule of law is upheld? What happens when the State fails to protect its own citizens where they suffer as a result of negligence on the part of State agents and employees?

While we wait to find the answer to these questions, the National Elections approaches!

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 660 days and counting…

April 15, 2015 Leave a comment

660

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 660 days 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.

SIX60

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” 

But, WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

For 660 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.

cartoon showing Peter O'Neill being fed by Rimbunan Hijau while he sits on a pile of SABL reports

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 644 days and counting…

March 30, 2015 Leave a comment

644

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 644 days 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” 

But, WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 644 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.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

 

Torokina oil palm disputed by Bougainville landowners

January 19, 2015 4 comments

On the 15th of January the Post-Courier reported it is full steam ahead for the controversial Torokina Oil Palm plantation on Bougainville. But now evidence has emerged that the necessary landowner permissions have not been obtained and local people are not happy.

In a letter to the Department of Lands locals people accuse the Bougainville government of fast-tracking the Incorporated Land Group process and not dealing with the their concerns. The letter demands that ILG certificates not be issued.

Is this another case of President Momis pushing through large-scale resource projects to enrich big corporations?

The beneficiary of this project is Hakau Investment Limited owned by Henry Chow and run by his son Fabian. The Chow dynasty have been awarded a range of government grants for projects on Bougainville. To conduct a feasibility study into oil palm at Torokina, they were awarded K10 million in 2010-11.

But landowners remained concerned. Palm Oil has a global reputation for harming the environment, damaging land, and enriching big business interests, at the cost of landowning communities.

Torokina page 1

Torokina page 2

Court orders extension to ban on Rimbunan Hijau logging in Pomio

December 9, 2014 1 comment

The National Court sitting in Kimbe has ordered an extension to the ban on any forest related activities by logging giant Rimbunan Hijau in its contested SABL lease areas in the Pomio District of East New Britain.

The extension was ordered at a hearing on Monday. The original orders were granted on November 16 – as reported below. The matter will return to court later this month.

Court orders halt to RH logging operations in controversial Pomio SABL areas

Photo shows landowners trying to block logging company access into their Conservation area, Pomio, West New Britain. Armed police forced the removal of the road block.

Landowners trying to block RH access into their Conservation area. Armed police forced the removal of the road block.

via ACT NOW!

The National Court has issued a restraining order stopping any forest logging operations by Rimbunan Hijau in two controversial Special Agriculture and Business Lease areas in the Pomio district of East New Britain.

The orders have been obtained by landowners from Portions 196C and 197C who claim the SABLs were obtained by fraud and forgery and without their consent and without following the proper processes under the Lands Act.

The Pomio SABLs are part of a wider land grab in PNG which has seen more than 5 million hectares of land taken from customary owners under 99 year leases. A Commission of Inquiry has condemned the leases as being fraudulent and unlawful but the government has not acted to stop logging companies operating in lease areas.

Rimbunan Hijau has already cleared at least 7,000 hectares of forest in the Pomio area alone and exported more than 500,000 cubic metres of timber with a declared value of over $50 million.

In October, the National Forest Board renewed the logging permit for the Pomio SABLs despite widespread opposition from local landowners. In September, the elected ward councillors and other community representatives from the villages of Bairaman, Mauna and Lau, wrote to the National Forest Board requesting the forest clearance permit issued in 2010 not be renewed.

When the Forest Board refused to listen to the landowners plea and elected instead to renew the logging permit the landowners turned to the courts for assistance.

The court orders stop the National Forest Authority doing anything to give effect to the new logging permit and stops RH from conducting any logging or associated activities in Portions 196C or 197C or doing anything else in reliance on the new permit.

The restraining orders were issued by Justice Batari in a court hearing in Kimbe on Friday, 14 November. The matter will return to court in December for further legal arguments.

Bougainville’s President Momis teams-up with Filipino execs slammed in human rights scandal

December 8, 2014 10 comments

Bougainville’s President John Momis has engaged the ABG in a joint-venture with Filipino executives allegedly involved in land-grabbing, violence against landowners, illegal labour practices, and environment breaches...

President Momis inspects A Brown Company’s facilities, a company slammed in a range of human rights reports

President Momis inspects A Brown Company’s facilities, a company slammed in a range of human rights reports

Bougainville’s social media has recently been full of speculation after questions were raised about the company, Bougainville POGE Development Ltd.

The company is a joint-venture between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and POGE Development Corporation. Apparently the relationship was facilitated by the ABG’s development adviser, Global Seagate, a Hong Kong based hedge fund and private equity firm.

The venture was launched by President Momis at the end of 2013 in the Philippines, where he asked ‘educated, technically qualified’ Filipinos to ‘come and help us’ Bougainvilleans who lack ‘expertise and capital’.

Incorporated several months later as Bougainville POGE Development Ltd, the ABG owns 30% of the company, while POGE Development Corporation has a 70% stake.

The majority owner of the joint-venture, POGE Development Corporation, is a Filipino company. Its senior management team are all shareholder-directors of Bougainville POGE Development Ltd, as is John Momis, Michael Oni and Albert Punghau (see Table 2 below). More worryingly POGE Development Corporation’s Chairman, Executive Vice President and Senior Vice President are also senior figures in the hugely controversial A Brown Company, a business group with significant interests in mining, oil palm and real estate.

Table 1: POGE consortiums links to the ABG and A Brown Company

Table 1: POGE consortiums links to the ABG and A Brown Company

A Brown Company stands accused of land-gabbing, terrorising landowners, and attacking environmental defenders in the Philippines.

In a 2012 report [21MB pdf file] by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, it was observed, ‘the A Brown Company, Inc. (ABCI) is a large corporation owned by the Filipino-American businesspeople Walter W. Brown and Annabelle Brown’ (Walter W Brown is a shareholder-director in Bougainville POGE, he is also Chairman of POGE Development Corporation, the majority owner of Bougainville POGE Development). Through its subsidiaries, A Brown Company has set up large oil palm operations in the Philippines.

According to the report, rural land was accessed by A Brown Company’s subsidiary ABERDI through promises of development:

‘The company promised the community a hospital, educational scholarships and other social services. A. Brown also promised not to force those who did not want to relinquish their lands to do so. In the long run, the company did not keep any of its promises. A. Brown instead committed various human rights violations’.

The report continues:

‘Among the violations against the indigenous peoples rights included destruction of crops, burning of houses, arrests, imprisonment, shootings, death threats and the desecration of sacred sites. These transgressions were committed by A Brown after it began its operations’.

It adds:

‘furthermore, adverse health and environmental effects [from the palm oil plantation] were reported. These were due to pesticide use in the palm oil plantation. In Opol, residents have observed the outbreak of diseases including cough, colds and skin disorders that they attribute to A. Brown’s chemical use. The plantation workers have either insufficient or no protective equipment at all. They are also uninformed about the effects of pesticide application’.

Of particular concern is the fate of those who are exposing the impacts of A Brown’s palm oil operations. According to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, environment defender Gilbert Paborada was shot in the head after a prolonged campaign against A Brown on behalf of his Higaonon tribe. Shortly before his execution Paborada allegedly received death threats from A Brown Company representatives. A Brown Company denies any involvement in the killing.

Yet rather than repudiate the firm which stands accused of serious, repeat human rights abuses, President John Momis has courted and celebrated their achievements. Following a visit to A Brown Company’s facilities earlier this year, Bougainville’s President made the following remark:

‘Bougainville can have a set up like the one at ABERDIN [A Brown’s subsidiary implicated in numerous human rights violations] … We have a lot of arable land that we can use for extensive [oil palm] agricultural development’.

Further information on A Brown Company’s human rights abuses can be viewed through these links:

Not for the first time President Momis has invited a fox into the hen house. Except this time it is not ‘the devil we know’, as he likes to put it, but a brand new ‘devil’.

Bougainville POGE POGE Dev Corp Management Other
John Momis Director/ Shareholder No ABG President
Michael Oni Director/ Shareholder No ABG Minister for Natural Resources
Albert Punghau Director/ Shareholder No ABG Finance Minister
Director/Shareholder Chairman Chairman of A Brown Company, Inc., Palm Thermal Consolidated Holdings Corporation, Palm Concepcion Power Corporation and A Brown Energy & Resources Dev’t. Inc., President and CEO of Apex Mining Inc. and Director of ISM Communications Corporation, Forum Energy Plc and Monte Oro Resources and Energy, Inc.
Roel Castro Director/ Shareholder Executive Vice President Vice President of Business Development at A Brown Company, Inc. since May 2010. Mr. Castro serves as Vice President of Business Development and Administration at Atok-Big Wedge Co. Inc. He serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President at Palm Concepcion Power Corporation.
Luis David Director/ Shareholder Senior Vice President Mr. David serves as Consultant of A. Brown Co, Inc
Rufino Tiango Director/S hareholder Board Director Chairman of the Board of Marala Vitas Central Terminal & Shipyards Corp.; President of Trufsons Holdings Corporation; President of Ruvict Holdings Corporation; Director of F & J Prince Holdings Corporation; Director of Magellan Capital Holdings Corporation; President of Vructi Holdings Corporation; and Chairman & CEO of R.A.V. Fishing Corporation.
Dominador Tupaz Director/Shareholder President Economic Adviser, Autonomous Bougainville Government. President of Seagate Global Commodities Services.
William Lawton Director/Shareholder No Chairman and CEO of hedge fund and private equity firm Global Seagate. Seagate also acts as an economic adviser to the Bougainville Government.

Table 2: Director-shareholders at Bougainville POGE Development Ltd

Operation Render Safe only skin deep

November 27, 2014 2 comments

torokina

False prophet

The Render Safe Operation is a joint operation between the Australian Defence Force, Bougainville Police Service and community police. The operation is said to be focused on removing World War 2 bombs from the West coast of Torokina District. The call for the operation was said to be from the women of Torokina (Hakalits. S, Mothers welcome operation, 27th.10.2014, Post Courier). This has, however, been denied by the community.

According to the community the call for the operation was made by the ABG’s President, John Momis, and its business partner Henry Chow and its purpose is to clear the way for the Torokina oil palm project. As well as the oil palm project are there any other motives?

Enter ABG Vice President Patrick Nisira who, under the influence of alcohol, has disclosed to this reporter his leader Momis’ interest in the Torokina plateau and the resource beneath the sea,. It is the alternative way forward to mining that repays 2010’s campaign money worth K30 million received upon a corrupt deal with Fong. As opposition to Panguna Mine gains momentum a desperate Momis gets on-board the Australian Marine force to tap into the biggest oil basin in the Southern Hemisphere.

Member for Ioro, Micheal Oni, and Minister for Mining also mentioned to this reporter that Panguna is not the only option for economy recovery. ‘The government cannot go without mining thus we are targeting Torokina oil and palm oil through the Operation Render Safe’. It was great to see him laugh after he said that.

There is a plan to build a pipeline from Torokina to Australia via Kesa in the Haku Constituency on Buka island, the oil drilling plant will have to start because the government is desperate.

On the ground people have questioned why if the operation came in for safety were they not able to remove bombs that are 5 meters beneath the ground. The interest an anonymous leader said is not on the land. People’s safety is in the sea, that is why there is much focus underwater and not on land.

Momis and his government will soon abolish the Panguna Land Owners Association. They have already sensed the area that can help to achieve their dire need, and it’s none other than Torokina. A place where our humble population is found.

Operation Render Safe and the oil palm project are the scape goats to this hidden motive that has leaked into the air. If it was not for attaining the promises made to BCL then the 2010 American Army operation should have continued. They are the ones whose base was Torokina. It is where the American 16 foot thick ammunition cellar is.