At the bare minimum, when people pay taxes, they expect their governments to at the very least uphold the law.
Yet in Papua New Guinea, the government has proven allergic to law enforcement – indeed when Governor Juffa began tackling illegal businesses, he was condemned by the political classes. It appears lawlessness is now formal policy.
But the failure of the government hasnt stopped Madang landowners and civil society from stopping the illegal conduct of Malaysian logger firm G & S Limited.
Owned by Malaysians Kem Go and Sie Wong, G & S Limited has been illegally logging on customary land belonging to the Songumbe-Marumbe and Boimbe Clans. This is a foreign company, which has come into Papua New Guinea, it does not have foreign certification to operate in PNG (according to the IPA registry), and it is involved in theft. Yet the government has done nothing.
So landowners in collaboration with the Madang Civil Society Organisation Forum, challenged the loggers in court and won.
Justice Canning found the Malaysian logger guilty of the tort of trespass. The court awarded the customary plaintiffs an injunction and damages.
The problem today is that private remedies are the only ones left for communities being victimised by land grabbers, fraudsters and crooks. The government as the principal law breaker, has no motivation to see the law enforced.
Its time to take action against the culture of criminality. We must protect our lands and people from these predators. If a company is in breach of the law, they must be chased off the land and brought to justice. The government will not do it, so the people must undergo this struggle. It is through struggle great nations are forged.
Our new Chief Secretary, Isaac Lupari, was identified to be at the centre of a K3.7 million fraud by the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry. He was recommended for investigation by the police for fraud and conspiracy but has never been prosecuted…
Isaac Lupari, aided by Gelu and Paraka lawyers, stole K3.7 million
First published May 31, 2010
Former Ambassador to the European Union, Departmental Head and Consultant to the Prime Minister, Isaac Lupari stole K3.7 million from the people of PNG through false claims for breach of contract according to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department.
The false claims were drafted and submitted by Guguna Garo, of Paul Paraka lawyers, and were illegally settled by the then Solicitor General, Zachary Gelu. In addition to the K3.7 million, a further K800,000 was paid to Paul Paraka lawyers from public funds for their role in facilitating the fraud.
The Commission of Inquiry has recommended Isaac Lupari, Zacchary Gelu and Guguna Garo all be investigated by the police with a view to prosecution for fraud and conspiracy.
From 1997 through to 2009, Isaac Lupari was employed by the State in a series of senior positions including Secretary Finance, Secretary Defence, Secretary Works, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, Michael Somare, Secretary Transport, Ambassador to the European Union and Chief Secretary. In these positions Lupari was handsomely rewarded, receiving, for example K1,294,133 in the four-and-a-half year period between September 1997 and April 2002
But being paid over K270,000 a year wasn’t enough it seems because in December 2001 Lupari sued the State for breach of four separate employment contracts. Lupari claimed he had successively been unlawfully terminated as Secretary Finance, Defence, Personnel Management and Transport and was entitled to claim the balance of all pay and entitlements for the unexpired period of all four contracts. These claims were fraudulent as Mr. Lupari never suffered any loss of pay and entitlements and was employed by the State for the whole time that he claimed for and beyond.
However, Lupari’s initial legal claims were never pursued as when Somare was elected PM in 2002, Lupari agreed to withdraw them as part of the deal that saw him appointed as Ambassador to the EU. Lupari though did not honour that agreement and five months later, in January 2003, Paul Paraka lawyers resubmitted the four claims on behalf of their client.
Less than two months after the four claims were filed with the Court they were approved for settlement by Solicitor General Zachary Gelu. Gelu agreed to settle the claims despite clear instructions from the Department of Personnel Management that the claims were unlawful, without merit and should be vigorously defended.
Gelu personally signed the Deed of Settlement awarding Lupari K3,703,461.31 and at the same time approved the payment to Paul Paraka lawyers of an additional K800,000 for their costs (a hugely inflated figure given the claims had only been issued two months earlier).
Lupari’s illegal claims were drafted and filed by Guguna Garo of Paraka lawyers. The Commission found that Mr Garo must have known that at least one of the claims he submitted was baseless and that in all four cases he would have known Mr Lupari had suffered no loss. The Commission found Mr Garu knowingly misled the court from the very start.
Read the Commission report on Issac Lupari (220KB)
For the second time in just two weeks Malaysian electronics distributor Compugates has announced its involvement in a dodgy logging deal in PNG.
On January 28 we revealed Compugates agreement to log in a 26,000 hectare SABL lease already declared unlawful by a Commission of Inquiry and recommended for cancellation.
Now Compugates has announced an agreement with Lower Sepik Holdings to log a further 72,000 hectares of forest [see story below].
But there are serious questions to be answered over how Lower Sepik Holdings could possibly hold the logging rights to 72,000 hectares of forest.
Lower Sepik Holdings is a company that was registered in May 2012 with just one shareholder and one director – Arnold Alero. Since being registered the company has not filed any annual returns. How could a one-man company that has never traded have the lucrative logging rights to 72,000 hectares of forest?
All forest in PNG is customary owned and any large-scale activity on the land requires the informed consent of all the customary landowners.
Has Compugates checked under what authority Arnold Alero claims to have the rights to log 72,000 ha of forest?
Has Compugates checked the informed consent of the landowners?
And what form of logging permit or licence does Lower Sepik Holdings have and how was it obtained?
Compugates signs MoU for another PNG logging project
Compugates Holdings Bhd, which was recently invited by Papua New Guinea-based Marrienberg Hills Resources Development Ltd (MHRD) to log 26,000ha of its PNG forested land, has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with another landowner to engage it as a logger over 70,000ha in PNG.
The consumer electronic product distributor told Bursa Malaysia that its unit Compugates Perak Sdn Bhd (CPSB), which cultivates and sells agricultural products, signed a memorandum with Lower Sepik Holdings Ltd to undertake the project.
Lower Sepik will maintain its invitation to CPSB exclusively for a period of six months and will not invite any other person or entity for that purpose.
The logging and marketing contract is for a term of five years and is renewable.
There is still no sign of any action to undo the huge SABL land grab, revoke the unlawful leases or stop the illegal logging.
It is 959 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.
For more than two years O’Neill has REPEATEDLY told 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 supposedlycancelling 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”
The Chief Secretary has also said:
“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”.
But, still no action has been taken to cancel the leases or stop the logging. Indeed, Forest Minister Douglas Tomuriesa, has declared the logging companies are effectively above the law, He says the SABL logging is legal and he will not be taking action to stop it.
So, despite all the promises, the fact is landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles and against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.
For 959 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.
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.
A Malaysian owned business registered in the United States is trying to raise $500,000 via the internet using the promise of profits to be made in logging an illegally issued SABL in Central Province.
MAS Project Management claims it has ‘acquired’ the 42,150 hectares of land known as Portion 29C which it will use for logging under an agreement with Baina Agro Forestry Limited.
MAS claims the logging will deliver profits of over US$34 million but fails to disclose the SABL has been declared unlawful by a Commission of Inquiry which recommended the lease be revoked.
Dato Abdul Manaf Abdul Hamid is the man behind MAS Project Management. He says the company is registered in the US State of Delaware. He is also a shareholder and director of MAS Incorporated, which is registered as a local company in PNG despite being owned by Malaysians.
Abdul Manaf Abdul Hamid is using the EquityNet crowd funding platform to try and raise $500,000 from potential investors.
He has posted a promotional video on YouTube in which he claims logging in the SABL will deliver profits of over US$34 million, based on the export of 873,280 cubic metres of logs and an income of $122 million.
The video makes no mention of the costs of establishing an oil palm plantation which is promised on the EquityNet website and which is presumably the carrot being used to fool some local landowners.
Baina Agro Forestry is the company which was granted a 40 year SABL lease over Portion 29C in November 2005. It claims to be a ‘landowner’ company but only a very few local people are involved.
The SABL Commission of Inquiry found the lease had been unlawfully issued by the Department of Lands and recommended it be revoked. That recommendation has since been endorsed by the National Executive Committee.
The CoI found most of the 6,000 people living in the lease area had not been consulted about the SABL. Only 300 (5%) participated in the Land Investigation process. As well as the lack of landowner consent the CoI found numerous procedural errors in the issuing of the SABL.
This is how MAS Project Management describes its plans:
MAS had acquired a piece of land for an agro-forestry project located in the Goilala District of Central Province, Papua New Guinea. It covers a total of 42,150 hec. of forest and is geographically located approx. just 100 km west of Port Moresby.
MAS INCORPORATED (PNG) LTD a company incorporated in the Independent State of Papua New Guinea on 19th July, 2007and wholly owned by Malaysian Bumiputra had acquired a piece of land for an agro-forestry project located in the Goilala District of Central Province, Papua New Guinea.
It covers a total of 42,150 hectares of forest land and is geographically located approximately just 100 km west of Port Moresby, the National Capital of PNG. The location is within the vicinity of the Doa Rubber estates in the east and Mariboi Rubber Plantation in the north.
Besides being registered as a private limited company, MAS has also been certified by Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) as a foreign enterprise and recognized by the PNG National Forest Authority as a Forest Industry Participant under the Forestry Act 1991.
The Landowners and the Clan Leaders of Baina Agro-Forest had endorsed a Logging & Marketing Agreement (LMA) dated 28th October 2008 signed between BAINA AGRO FOREST LTD (BAF) a Landowner Company (LOC) and MAS INCORPORATED (PNG) LTD (MAS). Under the LMA, MAS is given the rights to extract and market the timber resourses felled in the area.
A SUB-LEASE AGREEMENT dated 12th December 2008 was also signed between Baina Agro Forest Ltd and Mas Incorporated (PNG) Ltd. whereby the Baina Agro Forestry Land was leased to MAS for 40 + 99 years.
The approval to start a clear felling operation on the first designated area of 5,000 hec. was given by the Department of Agriculture & Livestock (DAL) and the PNG National Forest Authority (NFA) since 7th October 2009.
The approval paved the way for MAS to apply for the Forest Clearing Authority (FCA), an overall approval from the DAL and the NFA to clear fell the forest in the designated area for agricultural development.
The merchantable timber extracted from the area are allowed to be exported while the small and the super small volumes that cannot be exported can be utilized locally for downstream processing.
How has Rimbunan Hijau, one of the world’s largest logging companies, been able to avoid responsibility for its unlawful and unsustainable logging, land grabbing and human rights abuses in Papua New Guinea?
How has the company, despite its appalling record, been able to extend its operations into multiple sectors of the local economy?
‘RH’ may be “popularly synonymous with the problems of the logging sector, corruption and anti-Chinese sentiments” in PNG but that has not inhibited its growth.
Media manipulation, slick public relations, political patronage, legislative amendments, abuse of existing laws, exploitation of weak regulations and government agencies and the aggressive use of the courts to threaten and intimidate, have all played an important role.
This is all laid out in a 2015 report, RH in the forests of PNG (500kb), by Jennifer Gabriel and Mike Wood from James Cook University.
Adding to the existing literature on the history of forestry policy and reform in Papua New Guinea, this paper focuses on the Malaysian Rimbunan Hijau Group (RH) – the largest actor in PNG’s forest industry. Rimbunan Hijau’s dominant presence since the 1980s has been accompanied by allegations of illegality, corruption and human rights abuses. This paper outlines RH’s initial involvement in PNG’s forestry sector and discusses some of the more controversial aspects of its engagement with concession acquisition processes and public policy, as well as its responses