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Posts Tagged ‘SABL’

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.

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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

O’Neill’s illegal land grab: 1379 days and counting…

April 3, 2017 2 comments

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

O’Neill’s illegal land grab: 1372 days and counting…

March 27, 2017 3 comments

There is still NO ACTION to reverse the huge SABL land grab. NO ACTION to return the land to customary landholders and NO ACTION to stop the illegal logging in SABL areas.

This is despite repeated statements from the Prime Minister that the leases are illegal and will be cancelled.

It is now 1,372 days since the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement that has allowed foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 50 thousand square kilometres of land.

But for almost four years ago, all we have heard from Prime Minister O’Neill are EMPTY PROMISES that the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

The latest statement from O’Neill was just two weeks ago. On 14 March, O’Neill said all the SABL licenses are illegal in this country” and will be cancelled.

This echoed repeated statements he has made over the past three years. 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 supposedly 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” 

In 2015 the Chief Secretary stated:

“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”.

On November 4, 2016, O’Neill told Parliament and the Nation:

“I am pleased to say that all the SABL leases to be cancelled, instruction has now gone to the Lands Dept and as of today I can assure you that leases are now being cancelled and where there are projects now existing, we’ve encouraged the landowners to renegotiate many of those leases arrangements that they have made with the developers.

“These leases were given without much thought in the past. As a result, a lot of the landowners stood to lose all their years of generations of ownership over the land that they have had for many years.

“We do not want the rightful landowners lose their rights to land.

“That is why we have instructed the department of Lands and Forestry to cancel all the SABL.”

But, despite all the promises, no action has been taken to cancel the leases, landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the logging to be stopped.

For 1,372 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and 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.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

Land Minister Benny Allen swallowed up by the SABL corruption he vowed to fight

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Allen swallowed up by corruption

In October 2012, the then new Lands Minister, Benny Allen spoke eloquently about the rampant corruption in his Department that had led to the SABL land grab and other abuses:

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

First, I will implement the policy of zero tolerance on corruption within the Department. Corruption has resulted in the loss of large parcels of land owned both by customary land owners and the State.

As you all are aware, 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 interest 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 Special Agriculture Businesses Leases (SABL) are fully implemented.[1]

Now, more than four years later, not one lease has been cancelled and the Minister has radically changed his position, seemingly swallowed up by the same corruption he vowed to fight.

Rather than ensuring the SABL Commission of Inquiry recommendations are fully implemented and the leases cancelled as he promised, the Minister is now trying to endorse and consolidate the land grab by issuing new leases to the very same companies that stole the land in the first place.

The Minister says his Department is “converting these SABLs into customary land leases through the Incorporated Landowner Group and Voluntary Customary Lands Registration concepts.” [2]

It seems the only way the Prime Minister can now uphold his own promises to ensure the leases are cancelled will be to remove the Lands Minister…

Endnotes
1. National Land Development Conference 
Opening Speech, 12 October 2012
2. Post Courier, 15 March 2017

O’Neill’s illegal logging – 1365 days and counting…

March 20, 2017 2 comments

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty