Posts Tagged ‘Police’

Promises, promises: a decade of anti-corruption budgets and spending in PNG

August 18, 2017 1 comment

Anti-corruption suggestion box, Mombasa, Kenya (Marcel Oosterwijk/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

by Grant Walton and Husnia Hushang on DevPolicy Blog

In Papua New Guinea, government responses to corruption have received a great deal of media attention over the past decade (see here and here). Despite this coverage, there is still much we don’t know about the state of the country’s anti-corruption agencies. Indeed, many struggle to provide the public with basic information about their activities. We could not obtain a copy of recent annual reports from the Ombudsman Commission, despite a request (frustratingly, you can view the covers but not the content of recent annual reports here).

To address this knowledge gap, our recent Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper tracks ten years of budgetary allocations and spending on key anti-corruption agencies: the Ombudsman Commission, the National Fraud and Anti-corruption Directorate, Taskforce Sweep, the Auditor-General’s Office and the Financial Intelligence Unit. In this blog we examine one of the three research questions we answer in the paper, namely: how have allocations for and spending on anti-corruption organisations changed over time? By comparing budgetary allocations and actual spending, we highlight the degree to which governments have fulfilled their budgetary promises.

PNG’s Ombudsman Commission is one of the few agencies in our analysis where budgeted and actual spending have mostly been in sync – that was the case until 2015 when allocations outstripped spending (Figure 1). Budgetary allocations for 2017 suggest the organisation’s funding will decline even more; on current projections the organisation will end the decade in the same financial position it was at the beginning.

Figure 1: Ombudsman Commission allocations and spending (2016 prices)

Located with PNG’s police department, the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate (Fraud Squad) plays a significant role in fighting corruption. Figure 2 demonstrates that spending on the Fraud Squad, despite its role in attempting to arrest the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and other senior ministers, increased between 2008 and 2015. Yet there has been significant variation. Between 2011 and 2015 there were large gaps between allocations and spending, although the gap has been declining. Reduced spending in 2012 and 2013 is likely due in part to resources being reallocated to Taskforce Sweep, which was established in 2011. Budget allocations declined by 23 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

Figure 2: National Fraud Squad allocations and spending (2016 prices)

The third anti-corruption agency we examine is the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – now known as the Financial Analysis and Supervision Unit – an agency with a mandate to investigate money laundering and terrorist financing. At the time the 2015 budget was announced, the media made much of the fact that the FIU was allocated less than the police band’s budget. Our analysis (Table 1) shows the difference in spending between these organisations was even worse. In 2015, in real kina 1.07 million kina was spent on the PNG police band and the FIU received 264,364 kina – so the police band received almost four times more than the FIU. For the two years data is available (2014 and 2015), spending on the FIU was less than half of allocations.

Table 1: Financial Intelligence Unit allocations and spending (kina, 2016 prices)

The Auditor-General’s Office is tasked with inspecting, auditing and reporting on accounts, finances and properties of government departments, agencies, and public corporations. Figure 3 shows that in 2012 the agency’s allocation rose above spending, and 2013 spending rose above allocations. By 2015, spending had declined to 21 million kina, and then increased slightly in 2016 to 22.3 million kina. However, funding is set to decline, with allocations reducing to 16 million kina by 2017; in real kina this is less than the agency was allocated at the start of the decade.

Figure 3: Auditor-General’s Office allocations and spending (2016 prices)

Figure 4 depicts the PNG government’s budgeted and actual spending on the short-lived but relatively successful Taskforce Sweep and the yet to be established Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). After Taskforce Sweep’s role in the attempted arrest of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, spending slumped sharply to 5 million and zero kina in 2015 and 2016 respectively. However, the amounts reportedly spent are far lower than allocations. While the O’Neill-Namah government quickly spent 7.5 million kina (non-budgeted) on the agency in 2011, since then the difference between allocated and actual spending has been significant. Just under one million (real) kina was allocated for the yet to be established ICAC in 2017. Thus, our analysis shows that the meteoric rise and fall of Taskforce Sweep was accompanied by unfulfilled spending promises.

Figure 4: Taskforce Sweep and ICAC allocations and spending (2016 prices)

To get a sense of the relative spending on each organization, Figure 5 compares actual spending over time (and allocations where spending data is not yet available) of each of these organisations. It shows that out of the agencies we examine, the Ombudsman Commission and Auditor-General’s Office are by far the most heavily funded. Traditionally, more has been spent on the latter than the former, although in 2017 this appears set to change, with the Auditor-General’s Office facing severe funding cuts. In comparison, other agencies receive paltry sums.

Figure 5: Spending on five anti-corruption organisations, 2008-2017 (2016 prices)*

*Actual spending solid lines; budgeted dashed lines. 2016 figures for Ombudsman Commission and Auditor-General’s Office from Final Budget Outcome (2016).

Figure 6 shows that overall spending on anti-corruption agencies has been less than allocations since 2012. Overall spending and allocations have been reducing since 2014; because budgetary allocations are made the year before (i.e., the 2014 allocation is made in 2013), this means that the PNG government was significantly reducing its commitment to anti-corruption agencies before Taskforce Sweep helped organise an arrest warrant for then Prime Minister O’Neill.

Figure 6: Total anti-corruption allocations and spending (2016 prices)*

*Total Anti-corruption Spending – Ombudsman Commission/National Fraud and Corruption/Auditor-General’s Office/Taskforce Sweep/FIU/Anti-corruption program Department of Finance

Amidst calls for the new government to establish an ICAC, these findings suggest anti-corruption activists and policy makers should be pressuring the PNG government to close the gap between budget promises (allocations) and actual spending. In addition, greater efforts are needed to ensure that spending on existing anti-corruption agencies does not continue to fall.

Grant Walton is a Research Fellow and Husnia Hushang is a Program Officer with the Development Policy Centre. This blog is based on the Development Policy Centre Discussion paper, ‘Promises, Promises: A Decade of Allocations for and Spending on Anti-Corruption in Papua New Guinea’ available hereCalculations for graphs and tables can be found here.

Note: We understand that it is now possible to get a hardcopy of recent annual reports from the Ombudsman Commission’s office.


Disgraceful shootings of students must be promptly investigated

June 9, 2016 2 comments
shot student

Injured student is rushed to emergency room in Port Moresby after police shot into crowd of peaceful protestors (Getty Images)

Amnesty International

The shooting of students peacefully protesting in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is a disgraceful attack on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

Amnesty International has received information that there are 38 people injured, including four in critical condition. Three people are still being assessed in emergency.

“The shooting of students peacefully protesting is reminiscent of the worst excesses of repressive regimes in the region,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

“Papua New Guinea’s authorities must establish a prompt, impartial and independent investigation to determine who is responsible for the unnecessary and excessive use of force.”

The Papua New Guinea police opened fire today on a group of students at Papua New Guinea University who were peacefully protesting against the alleged corruption of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Several eyewitnesses have come forward to say they saw students beaten and shot at, including one case where a student was shot in the head.

In a statement, Prime Minister O’Neill blamed the violence on the students who had set out from their university for a peaceful protest at parliament. Before any investigation has taken place, he has denied that the police targeted the students, claiming that their only response was the use of tear-gas and “warning shots.”

“Prime Minister O’Neill’s reaction has been completely inadequate. He should ensure an investigation worthy of its name takes place into reports of excessive use of force. Instead, he has prejudged the outcome, blamed the students for what happened to them, and sought to evade accountability,” said Djamin.

Prime Minister O’Neill told parliament that an investigation into the shootings at Papua New Guinea University will take place. It is not clear who will carry out the investigation, when it happen, or whether it will be independent of any government or police interference.

“It is not good enough for the authorities to investigate themselves,” said Djamin. “The Papua New Guinea government is trying to absolve the police of all responsibility for the unlawful use of force.”

Claims by the Papua New Guinea authorities directly contradict several first-hand accounts reported of the violence.

Outside Papua New Guinea General Hospital, families and friends of students who were attacked were peacefully protesting the shootings. Hospital officials have said that they heard shooting outside the hospital.

“The police must exercise restraint and respect the right to peaceful protest. Firearms must only be used when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” said Djamin.


Since May, Prime Minister O’Neill’s government has been the focus of sustained student protests over allegations of corruption. O’Neill is accused by PNG’s Taskforce Sweep of allegedly authorizing payments for fraudulent legal bills amounting to USD $22 million.

The students have used peaceful methods, including protests and a boycott of classes.

Prime Minister O’Neill has lashed out at the students for taking part in the peaceful protests, deriding them as poor performing students and warning that they will have to “face the consequences” in terms of their academic prospects

Violence, corruption and impunity are long standing problems for PNG’s police

June 8, 2016 1 comment

In light of the tragic police shooting of university students, this story published in January appears to ring truer than ever…  

police mobile squad

International State Crime Initiative

The recent video of a young woman forced to consume a condom by Papua New Guinea police, has rightly triggered condemnation. Yet this humiliating act is by no means an isolated incident. It is rooted in a much longer history of violence, lawlessness and impunity within the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC).

Of course, it needs to be said at the outset, many police officers serve their country with distinction, under very difficult conditions. In short, an entire force cannot be tarred with the same brush.

Nevertheless, there is compelling evidence cataloguing a longstanding culture of violence, lawlessness and impunity within the RPNGC, particularly the mobile squad units. It shouldn’t be forgotten it was their brutality on Bougainville that is frequently cited as one of the critical triggers for the subsequent conflict that cost up to 20,000 lives.

Over the past decade there has been a steady stream of critical reporting on the RPNGC. For example, Amnesty International has documented [pdf file] the lawless behaviour of mobile squads operating around the Porgera mine. They claim, ‘between April and July 2009, police officers of the Mobile Squad burned down at least 130 buildings in Wuangima, with local community members reporting many more being destroyed’.

Violence against women and children has been a persistent problem too. For example, in a series of reports published in 2005 [pdf] and 2006 [pdf], Human Rights Watch uncovered serious sexual assaults perpetrated by police officers, in addition to other acts of humiliation and degradation, including the forced consumption of urine and other gratuitous acts of wanton torture.

On numerous occasions concerns have been raised over mobile squad units securing PNG LNG, including Esso Highlands logistic support for their operations. Investigations are promised by government, but never occur.

We have also seen the RPNGC implicated in high profile human rights abuses on Manus Island, and the systematic torture of landowners in service of the logging industry.

Were all that not enough, repeated warnings have been raised over police in Port Moresby and elsewhere, unlawfully evicting communities using extreme violence, on behalf of developers who have acquired the property under questionable conditions. Coupled to this are the other day to day abuses committed by police who not only torture suspects and humiliate civilians publicly – but have the temerity to take glory shots for their own amusement.

police mobile squad 2

This organisational behaviour has been going on for over three decades, without any enduring signs of improved discipline.

Therefore, more junior officers might be forgiven for thinking they are above the law, given the senior command have made no substantive attempt to reform an organisation troubled by systemic corruption, human rights abuses and lawless behaviour.

If we take into account the mountainous body of unprosecuted referrals made by anti-corruption agencies over the past two decades, involving senior politicians and civil servants, its fair to say many state officials have little to gain from a highly functional police force, who impartially administer the law. After all, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

If history is a guide, this latest scandal will pass under the bridge, without any substantive institutional reform. Of course, there will be much noise from government quarters to quench the public desire for justice, it is unlikely though this will translate into long term action. Politicians know they can grandstand at the heat of crises, and then wait for the public to cool.

Something seismic and unprecedented will be needed to break the cycle of abuse, outrage, and inaction.

Dr Kristian Lasslett, 5 January 2016

Court leniency on rogue officer fuels the fire of police brutality

January 31, 2016 Leave a comment

police guns

Anyone on the street knows, when you see an RPNGC officer, you smile and submit. With luck they won’t give you trouble. If they do, who knows where it will end up. For one unlucky girl it concluded with a scene of humiliation, where she was forced to eat a condom.

But what are they Courts doing to crack down on police violence? Very little.

A sad example of this is the recent case of State v Akia [2015].

The victim had been taken into custody by police, after they were accused of sorcery.

The National Court outlines the brutal, unprovoked attack the victim then endured, at the hands of  a 37 year old police officer:

‘At the Wet Crossing at Hohorita, the accused [RPNGC officer] stopped the vehicle and ordered the victim to get out of the vehicle and go and have his bath in the river. The victim obeyed, alighted and went into the river and had his bath as ordered. The accused then got an A2 assault Rifle, aimed it at the victim and shot him on his right foot causing him bodily harm. He then ordered the victim to get back into the vehicle and they continued on to the Popondetta Police Station where they placed him in the cells with his injuries. The victim later discovered by another officer who then took him to the hospital for treatment’.

The disgraced police officer, petitioned the National Court for leniency, arguing he had paid K10,000 in compensation to the victim, and a further K5,000 in foodstuffs.

Incredibly both the defence and prosecution agreed a three year suspended sentence would be appropriate. A suspended sentence in effect means while a custodial sentence is given, providing the offender commits to good behaviour, they never have to actually spend any time in prison.

In his decision, the Judge rightly drew attention to certain aggravating factors that considerably added to the seriousness of the case. Namely, the police officer was entrusted to uphold the law. However, rather than upholding the law, he employed his legal powers to commit a brutal crime against a vulnerable victim, who had done nothing wrong. This act was part of a broader wave of police criminality that is now an urgent public policy issue.

Toliken AJ observes in his sentencing decision:

‘Police brutality of late has been such that citizens are now wondering out loudly who will protect them from law breakers when certain members of the police force are increasingly becoming lawless themselves. It is as if the law enforcers have given up trying to uphold the law so much so that they now feel that if you can’t beat the criminals, join them and become criminals too.’

As a result, the learned Judge states:

‘This case, therefore, calls for a strong punitive sentence which will and must deter the prisoner and like- minded colleagues of his’.

Members of the public might conclude the maximum penalty was opted for, 7 years imprisonment. Yet it wasn’t. The offender was released on a suspended sentence. For punishment, the police officer was merely ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Its hard to see how this is either commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, or indeed a deterrent decision. Remember, we are talking here of a police officer that shot an unarmed civilian, who had done nothing wrong, and fully complied with all orders.

Sadly it appears when the powerful break the law, the Court goes out of its way to deliver leniency, leaving prisons stocked with the poor and powerless, who have neither the money or the prestige to escape punishment.

A two tier legal system is emerging, that will only serve to erode public confidence in the administration of justice.

Judge slams Lands Department corruption and calls for police action

March 12, 2015 18 comments

Justice Kandakasi has slammed the widespread corruption in the Department of Lands and has called for police action against those public servants responsible for a long history of fraudulent leases and corrupt land deals.

In delivering his judgement in the case of Loa -v- Kimas, a case involving yet another fraudulent lease facilitated and enabled by people in the Department of Lands, the judge has stated:

Sitting in the National and Supreme Courts for a while now, I have come across more cases of possible fraud facilitated by the Registrar of Titles and other officers of the Department of Lands. This must stop and the only way to do that is to have proper investigations and those responsible being criminally charged and proceeded with. I would therefore strongly recommend (since I cannot direct the police) that the police take the relevant and necessary steps right away.

The judges comments come on the back of the SABL Commission of Inquiry which revealed more than 5 million hectares of customary land has been illegally leased to foreign companies by the Lands Department.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly called for the SABL leases to be revoked but as nobody has taken any action to remove the corrupt and incompetent officers responsible for issuing the leases – including acting Secretary Romilly Kila-Pat and Lands Title Registrar Ben Samson – nothing has been done to cancel the leases.

Even the Minister for Lands has described his own Department as corrupt and dysfunctional:

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

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 interests 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 SABL are fully implemented.

Address at NRI, 29 October 2012

But again, no action has been taken to remove, let alone punish, the public servants responsible for this miserable state of affairs.

Why are our politicians so weak and seemingly unable to take decisive action against those involved in illegal and corrupt activities? Is it because the politicians themselves are also complicit in the illegal deals?

Logging in Pomio: Violence, Wages, Land and the Environment

September 22, 2014 4 comments

The arrival of Malaysian logging personnel in the Pomio area has been accompanied by increased disputes over land, poor working conditions, growing insecurity and violence, the destruction of sacred sites, the confiscation of villagers’ private property, environmental damage and an exacerbation of the crisis of legitimacy involving the modern PNG state.

logging and oil palm plantings in Pomio

By Professor Andrew Lattas, University of Bergen

Local villagers complain that government no longer represents their interests. This accusation is made against government at all levels: district, provincial and national. The democratic state is seen as not functioning to incorporate and protect people’s interests, but only those of the developer. Senior government personnel in key departments are accused of having too close a relationship with the Malaysian logging company operating in Pomio. Government officials can be frequently seen socialising and eating at the mess at the logging company’s headquarters at Drina. Some officials are there almost on a daily basis and they are seen sometimes carting away goods in government and company cars. This leads to much speculation by villagers, logging company workers and other government officials. This speculation focuses on the fact that this hospitality is not extended to all government employees but to select officials working in the key departments of forestry and lands; and senior officers at the local district office at Palmalmal, such as the Special Projects Officer and the District Administrator. The latter two officials were appointed under the influence of the previous member for Pomio, Paul Tiensten, who has recently been convicted and jailed for corruption involving tens of millions of kina. Other district workers at Palmalmal told me how they struggled to make ends meet on their low government salaries, but they did not see the select officials favoured by the Malaysian company as having the same money problems. They suspected these officials of receiving what they called a “second wage”, a euphemism for hidden payments rendered for hidden services.

Given that the district administrator, his deputy, the special projects officer, and the officers belonging to forestry and land socialise regularly with Chinese Malaysian management, it is no surprise that villagers see government as compromised. Villagers do not regard state officials as impartial and many believe there is no point in taking to them any complaint over land boundaries, the price of store goods, wages and conditions, safety, environment, or the destruction of private gardens and cash crops. This is why some villagers have resorted to road blocks in defence of their property but this only invokes a response by the riot squad and the private security employed by the logging company.

The Company Store: Low Wages, Credit Purchases and High Prices

I received many complaints from workers over their low wages. Workers complained that they did not receive any itemised pay sheets that might indicate how their pay has been calculated for that fortnight, e.g. how many hours they were booked as working and how much they were paid for each hour. Many workers just receive an envelope with money in it and without any accompanying calculations.

In particular, many workers complain that they never receive any itemised list of what they have supposedly purchased on credit from the logging company’s store and how this corresponds to the amount deducted from their fortnightly wage. Many workers claim that they have not purchased the quantity of goods that has been deducted and others tell of how during some fortnights when they have deliberately sought to avoid making purchases, they still incurred deductions from their pay. Workers have no way of getting redress for they do not receive any itemised record of their purchases that they could dispute or corroborate.

Some workers complain that they are urged by their Malaysian supervisors to purchase goods on credit from the company store when they are trying not to do so, for they need to save and spend their wages elsewhere, e.g. on school fees.

The price of subsistence goods (especially rice, tinned fish, oil, flour and biscuits) at the company store is much higher (about 25%) than the price of goods in local village stores. This is despite the fact that village trade-stores do not have the same easy access to urban wholesale stores in Kokopo, Lae and Port Moresby. This means that workers for the Malaysian logging company find it hard to survive on their low wages and many are forced to steal local garden produce so as to supplement their diet, both in terms of variety and calorie intake. Many Pomio villagers speak of increased thefts of food from their gardens by logging workers, who do not have local kin to provide vegetables.

The price of boat fuel is another source of complaint, whilst it is possible to buy fuel in villages for 18-22 kina, at the Malaysian camp it is sold for 25 kina.

Destruction of Private Cash Crops and Subsistence Gardens

Logging, road construction and the planting of oil palms has destroyed many private gardens and cash crops belonging to villagers who never agreed to have logging in their area and most certainly do not want to give up their land for an oil palm plantation. Until very recently, in coastal areas, the government has been encouraging copra and cocoa as cash crops, but these are now deemed superfluous even though villagers spent many decades clearing bush and then planting and harvesting these trees. The trees have been bulldozed to make way for roads and oil palms without the owners being compensated for their lost trees, land, expenses, income and work.

Ironically, the Malaysian logging company has used traditional concepts of clan ownership to seize and destroy private cash crops and gardens. The company has sought to gazump the rights of individual owners by using the supposed higher power of clan signatures collected by government officials. The fact that these government officers never went to the actual villages to collect these clan signatures and many of the signatures are fraudulent does not stop the riot squad and the lands and forestry officials from supporting this destruction and confiscation of people’s private land, gardens and cash crops using those same problematic signatures.

It is not just the customary rights of people which have been fundamentally compromised, but also their modern property rights. Once cash crops are planted on customary clan land, then the land and the trees becomes the private property of individuals that can be passed on to their children. It does not revert back to becoming customary clan land as is the case with slash and burn gardens. It is these modern property interests which are not being respected by this new form of development that uses forged clan signatures to trump and appropriate private property rights.

Land Registration as Land Theft

This dreadful experience with government attempts to collect clan signatures supporting logging is why there is currently widespread opposition by Pomio villagers to the land registration process. Many regard land registration as a vehicle by which RH and the land department can empower certain select individuals at the expense of others so as to provide developers with access and control over the land and its resources. Lip service is paid to the protection of traditional land rights through a bureaucratic process that in effect transfers clan rights to select individuals who are not clan leaders but are supported by the developer who has too close a connection with forestry and land officials.

A Crisis of State Legitimacy

The riot squad which has been brought in by the Malaysian company does not seek to correct these grievances by putting a stop to the seizure of private land and the destruction of property. Instead, the riot squad police support the Malaysian logging company by using their guns and the threat of arrest to intimidate villagers who set up road-blocks to prevent bulldozers, trucks and chainsaws from entering their land. The district office and the local council also refuse to help protect people’s property. All of this is producing a crisis of legitimacy for the modern state whose officials are seen as compromised and partisan. State officials are not seen as abiding by the logic of a democratic state where state officials should impartially assess and serve the interests of the people. Instead, these officials are accused of just working to protect the profits, private property, rights and reputation of the Malaysian logging company whilst that of Melanesian villagers is confiscated, destroyed and severely curtailed.

Divide and Rule

Many of those who have signed the documents to allow logging in coastal areas do not reside there. Instead they reside further in the interior, in bush villages that have an interest in logging and roads. It is true that these bush villagers do have relatives living along the coast and have customary rights to access coastal lands and their resources, but this is not the same as those bush villagers being the major clan leaders of those more coastal terrains. The interior villages see logging as a practical way of providing roads into the mountainous interior given that the government has been unable to fund and build those roads. Bush villagers are not affected by the oil palm plantations that are being established in the flatter, fertile and gently sloping hills close to the coast. Ironically, many of these interior villagers who support logging do not want oil palm plantations and certainly not in their home terrains. Nevertheless these same bush villages have at times raided and assaulted coastal villagers who seek to stop logging operations. In doing so, these bush villagers have been led by the directors of the local landowner company, which is largely funded by the Malaysian logging Company. Some of these directors live in the interior villagers and like the other landowner company directors they receive money from the Malaysian logging company, which allows them to visit town. There they stay in expensive hotels, eat and drink at restaurants and bars, and hire local prostitutes.

Private Security, Violence and Terror

The logging company also pays for the travel expenses of riot squad police. Indeed the Malaysian company houses, feeds and gives a monetary bonus to these police for their time in the logging camps in Pomio. Supplementing the violence and intimidation provided by the riot squad, the logging company has also recruited a large army of private security staff from villages in the interior who support logging. Ostensibly hired to protect company machinery at night from sabotage, this security staff is used in the daytime to protect the bulldozers, trucks, drivers and chain saw operators as these are pushed into new logging areas that are disputed and that coastal villagers do not want clear-felled and planted with oil palms.

The Mamusi bush villagers who have been hired as security guards have a reputation for traditional warfare and they very much cultivate the respect and fear this renown brings. This reputation was recently confirmed when some bush villagers raided the homes of coastal villagers and physically assaulted those who had opposed logging. These individuals were selected and were warned of further violence and even death unless they stopped their public opposition to logging. One major violent attack by bush Mamusi villagers happened at the logging camp at Drina where the riot police are based.

Corporatising Sorcery

The use of violence to intimidate logging opponents also extends to death threats involving sorcery. Whilst western educated individuals might not believe in sorcery, for Pomio villagers it is real. It is seen as evidenced in the unexplained deaths of friends, children, spouses and other relatives. One major form of sorcery used by bush Mamusi villagers to intimidate coastal villages involves the use of an invisible spear. A real spear will supposedly be dipped into a magical mixture and then it will be held, pointed and thrown in the direction of the intended victim. The real spear never leaves the sorcerer’s hand but an invisible spear travels to strike down the victim. When coastal villagers were physically assaulted by villagers in the interior, they were warned that the real spear had already been dipped in its magical solution and they should await the travel of the invisible spear. On many occasions, logging opponents have been threatened by the directors of the local landowner company and other supporters of logging with the gesture of them throwing an invisible spear at logging opponents. Indeed, logging opponents are openly told to eat their last pig and chicken, for they will soon be dead.

The expansion of logging into new areas has required not just the presence and violence of the riot squad and a private army of security personnel. It has also required a redeployment of the intimidating powers of sorcery; these have been corporatised.

Sexual Harassment, Pornography, and Marriages of Convenience

Women who come to the camps from villages to purchase goods and/or to see relatives are sometimes sexually accosted by Malaysian Chinese employees who will touch the breasts of these visiting women and proposition them by offering money for sex. The women in the logging camps who suffer the most sexual harassment are local women employed to work in less public and visible spaces that require the preparation of food and the cleaning of private rooms.

Sham marriages are often undertaken by Malaysian Chinese management personnel as a cover for permanent sexual relations with local women. These marriages do not involve a church minister and they do not involve a civil registration of the marriage. Instead, the customary notion of marriage through gifts to kin is used to legitimise a temporary union that does not involve any permanent obligation by the Malaysian Chinese to the children of that “marriage”. When these Malaysian Chinese employees leave PNG or are transferred to other logging camps, they do not take responsibility for the upkeep of these children by helping to pay for school fees, clothing, housing or food. Instead, all of these expenses are shifted and borne by local kin.

The sale of pornographic photos and videos especially for use on mobile phones has become another cause of concern at the logging camps. Local village leaders complain that these are being sold to workers and villagers by Chinese Malaysian staff.

Housing and Racial Hierarchy

Interactions in the camp are organised around a racial hierarchy and this is reflected and reinforced by the spatial layout of the camps. The Chinese management live in more luxurious quarters at the top of the hill. This compound is fenced off with high wire; it has painted buildings that are air conditioned and have satellite-TV reception. The housing of the Iban workers from Sarawak is situated closer to the coast and the loading wharves, where there is more noise and more mosquitoes. Their accommodation consists of partitioned rooms in long houses that are unpainted and unfenced. The buildings are made of timber planks and are slightly better in quality than the mostly thin plywood housing of Melanesian workers. The latter’s long houses have uninsulated corrugated iron roofs which make the buildings very hot in the day time. The thin plywood that separates the small rooms and living quarters of individuals and families offers no privacy, especially for married couples. The washing and cooking facilities are basic and inadequate.

The accommodation of Chinese management is at the top of the hill and luxurious by comparison

The accommodation of Chinese management is at the top of the hill and luxurious by comparison

Destruction of Sacred Sites

The rapid expansion of logging along the coast has destroyed many sacred ancestral sites, which have been bulldozed to make way for roads, logging and oil palms. The public relations officers employed by the logging company and the directors of the landowner company, though they are local villagers, are seen as too close to the logging company to act as impartial mediators. These individuals eat in the company mess and like local government officials they are regarded as compromised by the wages and gifts they received from Chinese Malaysian management. This perception is supported when directors and public relations officers spend all their time seeking to placate angry villagers, and refuse to intervene to help villagers to protect well-known sacred sites by diverting roads, logging and oil palm. These sacred sites in Pomio are regarded as where the world began and also where it will end, so many are worried by the destruction of these sites.

Safety and the Environment

Villagers in the area where the bush has been clear felled are worried by the chemicals used to spray around young oil palm trees to prevent the growth of weeds. When it rains those chemicals flow into the run off that flows into the nearby streams and rivers from which people collect water for drinking and cooking, and where they bathe.

Workers who spray the chemicals do so without any protective clothing. They are not provided with boots, overalls, gloves and a mask. Instead the men work wearing shorts and a shirt, and the women wear a laplap and meri-blouse. Both men and women work either barefoot or wearing just rubber thongs on their feet. The workers speak of how the wind will suddenly change and the chemical spray will then be blown onto their clothing, skin and hair, into their faces, and they will inhale the chemicals. In the morning the wet chemicals sprayed onto the tall grass coats workers’ legs, arms and clothing. When they go home, these workers do not shower or change their clothes. They speak of their fears as their young children come into close contact with their chemically soaked bodies and of wives who prepare and cook food after working with these chemical sprays.

Worker spraying herbicide in shorts and thongs, no boots, gloves, mask or overalls is provided. The wind blows the chemical spray onto the worker's body and clothing, endangering also his children and family when he returns to the village

Worker spraying herbicide in shorts, no boots, gloves, mask or overalls is provided. The wind blows the chemical spray onto the worker’s body and clothing, endangering also his children and family when he returns to the village

In the past, the villagers along the coast who live around Mauna, Lau, Bairaman and Mu have been strong supporters of development. They have their own walk-about saw mills and extensive cash crops, initially copra but now cocoa. Over the last few decades, many have developed their own land use plans with the lands department, but these development plans are now said by the lands department to be irrelevant. The opponents to clear-felling and oil palm are not backward cargo cult villagers as is often claimed by the riot squad and local landowner directors, who like to perpetuate this false caricature in the mass media of regressive, irrational villagers seeking to block progress. This is a very prejudiced portrayal of the Pomio Kivung movement, which operates as a local Melanesian church that established moral order in villages and calls for the proper development of resources rather than their theft. However, today, the strong opponents to clear-felling and oil palm (those who set up the road blocks and are arrested) are increasingly the more prosperous and developed coastal villagers. These more educated villagers oppose the transfers their land to a foreign developer for 99 years and virtually for free (only a token payment). They oppose the transformation of villagers into landless labourers; and they oppose the destruction of their moral communities and the movement of villagers into compounds where drunkenness and violence are common problems. Villagers would much rather work for themselves with their own walk-about saw mills, selective forms of logging, and cash crops rather than become low paid workers living on an inadequate diet, with poor housing and dangerous safety conditions that poison the environment. Villager’s own self-built houses are of much better quality than the skimpy housing, cooking and washing facilities offered by the foreign company. This new development is opposed because it is not improving local people’s living standards but is impoverishing them, stealing away their valuable asset – land and a productive healthy environment.

Paga Hill demolition in blatant violation of Constitution says retired judge

August 4, 2014 2 comments


Judge Mark SevuaOn Tuesday morning, 22 July 2014; NCDC Officials with the assistance of armed Police, Paga Hill Development Company and Curtain Bros demolished the SDA Church located at Paga Point together with the shelters of the Settlers on the Reclaimed Land below Paga Hill at Paga Point. The demolition and destruction of the Church and the Settlers’ shelters were carried out without any consideration of human dignity and the interest and welfare of the affected citizens. This is a blatant violation of the Constitution!! !!!!

It is quite amazing that a person of the calibre of Powes Parkop, the NCD Governor, who used to be describe himself as a champion of “Human Rights” could authorise his employees and henchmen to destroy the Church and the Settlers’ life with the use of armed police, without any human consideration at all. I only wish that the three World War 2 bombs had exploded that day and destroy all those involved in the destruction of this area!!!!!!!!!!!

Where was NCDC when this area was filled by extracted rocks and soil from the Burns Peak Poreporena Freeway construction in the late 70s????? When did NCDC declare the Reclaimed Land at Paga Point to be “Part Commercial, Part Public Utilities and Part Open Space” ????? If NCDC claims title to the Reclaimed Land, why did it not prevent the Settlers from moving onto the Reclaimed Land from the start, when the area was filled????????

These citizens have been residing on this Reclaimed Land for many years without interference by any authority. The eviction exercise initiated by Paga Hill Development Company was wrong in the first place. Even the National Court Order to give vacant possession of Portion 1597 including the Reclaimed Land was also wrong. As determined by the Supreme Court on 1 July 2014, such order given by the National Court on 29th January 2014 excludes the area known as the Reclaimed Land. The reason is simple- Portion 1597 did not, does not, and never include the Reclaimed Land. Up to today, some Settlers are still residing on the Reclaimed Land under sun, wind and cold because they have nowhere to go. The destruction of their homes was done in haste and without affording them ample opportunity to relocate. NCDC headed by the so called “Human Rights” lawyer and Governor Powes Parkop must be held accountable for their employees’.actions, especially when there is a Supreme Court Order in place. I therefore call on the Governor of NCO, Curtain Bros, Paga Hill Development Company and the Police to compensate these Settlers who have fallen victims of the unconstitutional breaches by all those concerned. These Settlers are simple people, some unemployed, but they are nevertheless human beings and they deserved to be treated with human dignity.

It is ironic and quite sarcastic and stupid for Gudumundur Fridriksson to deny his company’s involvement when the Settlers have seen and identified Stanley Liria in company with NCDC and Curtain Bros employees in the area since the Supreme Court decision. The Settlers may be just ordinary people, but they are not stupid, and they know who Stanley Liria is.

I would suggest that the Settlers’ Lawyer should file contempt of court proceedings against Stanley Liria and his company and the others who have been involved in this destruction. Contempt of the Supreme Court Order is a very serious matter and hopefully the Supreme Court will deal with those who think they are smarter than the Supreme Court.

I condemn in the strongest terms possible the inhuman and unconstitutional treatment these ordinary Papua New Guineans have suffered at the hands of NCDC, Police, Curtain Bros and Paga Hill Development Company. I also condemn the unlawful use of threats and violence by armed policemen who behave as if they are above the law. They behave like armed criminals and

I call on Geoffrey Vaki and Jim Andrews to stop their armed thugs policemen from getting onto the sides of private companies and NCDC and to stop harassing unarmed civilians. Finally, I call of NCO Governor, Powes Parkop to apologise to the Settlers and compensate them for the damages inflicted on them through his employees. As a champion of human rights cause, he should be accountable for the abuse and breaches of human rights his employees had rendered to these simple innocent Papua New Guineans and o the right thing by these people who continue to suffer from the unconstitutional violations.